Jazz Thoughts

What is familiar?

Chapter I — Openings

The five openings do not depend upon each other, and so can be read in any order. (Or it might be desirable to read only one of them the first time through this piece.[1]) They are presented here, as is my customary practice in this space, in the order in which I wrote them.[2] That is also how the remainder of this article is ordered; however, the four Chapters can be considered to be somewhat independent.[3]

  1. Although it might be overly bold to make such a prediction so early in this writing, my intention is to create an exposition such that reading a section again, after having read others, will change how it is perceived. So in principle, one could read this piece based on one opening, then another, etc.

  2. The goal, at least partly, is to reflect improvisatory practice. I do edit, however, but only section by section. In other words, I will not be going back to edit earlier sections once I complete them. (However I am "cheating" in that I do sketch ahead — basically, outline, in more standard process language, even if people who outline wouldn't find my sketches satisfying — although with less detail the farther away the section is.)

  3. In fact, I seriously considered writing in the order III, II, I, IV. That would have been easier for me, but I am guessing, harder on the reader. (I am writing the openings in the order I find most convenient for myself, however.)

Aesthetic narrative

Previous experience affects our response to sensation. This obvious statement [1] somehow gets lost in a temptation to evaluate aesthetic experience as absolute: Talk of masterpieces often slides into implication that their value is independent of context. Although one can speak cross-culturally about masterpieces exemplifying a particular context, whether one conceives of that context as culture per se or not, the form of aesthetic selection — the way "an example" is said to distinguish itself — is largely learned. (Whether a particular milieu or context picks its own examples, or if this is done from an external position, or more likely some combination, the result is based upon learned principles.) The cross-cultural reference, conceived most broadly as large groups of people with thousands of years of mostly separate history (e.g. Europe & China), is relevant precisely for the differences in cultural [3] learning that have already occurred in the past. Similar differences occur on a smaller scale within the same broad culture, hence subcultures, etc. At the smallest scale [4], different individuals will have had different experiences, learned different things, and ultimately [5] formed different aesthetic preferences.

It has been common to lay a master narrative of aesthetic value over this proliferation of differences in individual aesthetic experience, particularly at broad levels of continent, nation, etc. In other words, people are constantly being acculturated, told what is the best of an aesthetic category [6,7], told what the new categories are, etc. In the past [8], history itself had fewer narratives, at least as told in Europe and its derivative states, and those fewer historical narratives correspond to fewer aesthetic narratives: There is no history of Western classical music that does not feature Beethoven. Today, we have more historical narratives, not only attempts to recapture the historical events of the past from different perspectives, not only the different historical narratives of different pre-European [9] parts of the world, but the creation of narratives for various groups of people who might not be geographically defined.[10] Much more concretely, we have different styles of music (or visual art, etc.) that arise concurrently within the same larger milieu. These different styles create their own narratives, drive their own experiences [11], and yield their own aesthetic preferences.

With so many stylistic threads, and no dominant style [12] to orient them [13], it is no longer possible to consume narrative in a neutral way (if it ever was): There are aesthetic narratives one follows more, less, or not at all. Moreover, tracking across narrative, rather than within narrative, does not yield a sense of narrative (or it might forge a new stylistic narrative, but only if actively forged); one must settle somehow within it, however temporarily, to follow it. This brings us back to the opening statement of the essay: The art & music we know will affect how we perceive the next art & music we experience, and without a central tradition (or even with one), that knowledge & experience will vary widely. This phenomenon is fought aggressively in some circles by attempting to remain strictly within one aesthetic narrative.[14] If one does not want to do this — and the possibilities for doing so would appear to be limited, although not zero, due to the basic torsion of broader interaction — or one takes up a style that explicitly references other (all) styles, then one must (at least implicitly) address the fact of different aesthetic experience between oneself and others (whether fellow artists or audience). Even if they don't think about it much, I would suggest that most everyone knows this to be true, at some level.

At the level of the individual subject, it can be very challenging to untangle reasons for one's aesthetic preferences. For some people, such a personal project is of no particular value — although I will caution that an extreme lack of awareness can leave one open to manipulation.[15] For those of us grappling specifically with aesthetics, such an untangling becomes a necessity, but still impossible to carry out thoroughly. The reason for this impasse is simple enough: One has a time series of experiences, a narrative of one's own aesthetic experience [16], and so one cannot know how one might have reacted to seeing or hearing pieces in different orders.[17] This is a concrete question I pose to myself when attempting to provide feedback & discussion of music, and it seems particularly acute for contemporary improvisatory styles.[19,20] The idea of temporal staging is not unique to music or visual art, and in fact may be most obvious in culinary arts [21]: Even at a sitting, the order of foods, or of a flight of beverages, will affect one's ability to taste & appreciate them. One's experience can be mediated by other factors as well: I regularly fret about the noisiness of my environment when trying to listen to music.[22] These sorts of "accidental" happenings can have long-term effects on one's impressions & preferences, as they are potentially amplified over time.

Within the individual subject, at the level of an individual work, temporal series impinges on appreciation. In other words, something that one can see or hear or smell again & again takes on a familiarity. It can literally go from very unfamiliar to very familiar. Taking our lives as a whole, this is a common experience. From a first impression to when we know it well [23], an artwork (or anything) can seem very different — however, without a positive first impression, we may never know it well. Does that mean familiarity always increases our appreciation? Of course not; it might diminish appreciation substantially.[24] One thing is immediately clear, though: Familiarity changes our opinions — not only our opinion of what has become more familiar, but likely our opinion of other things (new or old) as well.[25] This is an opening to ask how & why & what does familiarity do. Even at the level of the individual artwork, the effect of familiarity on our appreciation cannot be predicted in advance. (One might consider artworks that explicitly play upon concepts of familiarity; perhaps they are actually more predictable in this regard.)

Our different experiences produce different senses of the familiar & unfamiliar, which in turn lead us to different experiences. So whereas we can say, as I have done, that it is experience that affects our response, the familiar & unfamiliar provide means to narrate or interrogate experience. I do not consider familiar & unfamiliar to be aesthetic categories, but rather affects that mediate categories.[26] Aesthetic categories are currently formatted into a grand narrative by the culture industry [27], and linked to various drives & interfaces according to capitalist ideology.[28] This grand narrative posits aesthetic categories as always already in place, and our subsequent response as totally individual.[30] In short, it reinscribes representation at the heart of perception [31], and so forms a veil over sensation: You can perceive what is represented, i.e. what you are told you can perceive [32], but that perception is somehow unique.[33] Then the artist must interact — if only transversally — with this regime of representation, positioning activity either within the grand narrative, within an "alternate" narrative (of which there are many), or at some other level, whether across or interstitially. Grappling with the history of art, and its narrative(s), consequently remains relevant, even with an impossible number of threads. Such an interaction or position becomes the artwork [34], particularly in its narrative form.[35]

  1. Perhaps not so obvious is that the statement "previous experience affects our response to sensation" is supra-individual. That is, our cultural experience, and even our genetic-species experience [2], is affecting those of us living & experiencing today. We are taught (likely not consciously) how to contextualize many events.

  2. Whether one wants to talk of natural selection, or more specific mechanisms for the development of e.g. human sense organs, one can embrace the notion that previous experience — broadly conceived — has had a significant impact on the way we respond to sensation.

  3. I am not altogether comfortable using the term "culture" here, because it has become so loaded with a variety of theoretical implications. However, it probably still speaks most directly. Please do not introduce e.g. a duality with "nature" in reading these remarks. Like many broad ideas, "culture" is most meaningful in the vaguest sense, and must be replaced by something more specific when needed.

  4. I do not actually believe that "the individual" (depending on what this means) is the smallest scale on which preferences can form, as will be explained in subsequent Chapters. However, it is convenient to adopt the conventional liberal subject position for the current opening.

  5. This language is not to suggest that preferences will not change. Rather, think of this sense of "ultimate" as constantly changing: Each moment is the new ultimate.

  6. I have taken the term "aesthetic categories" from Sianne Ngai. (I have no particular reason to believe she originated it, but that was my direct inspiration.)

  7. In USA, award shows are very popular, for example. People are told what is the best movie or song or actress for the year. These are typically placed within further categories.

  8. Yet here I am, declaring a master historical narrative.

  9. I am taking a liberty here by characterizing the timeline of imperial & colonial activity the way it is seen from Europe, with a time before & a time after. As in Is postmodernism racist?, one can consider various times & simultaneities.

  10. This is basically the process of identity formation, and identity (and with it, ideology & narrative) proliferates today.

  11. Experiences of various styles are not independent, but rather intertwined. However, they do also generate differences. (Identical statements could be made about differing social groups.)

  12. At this point, it would be difficult to describe even USA "Top 40" (i.e. the most popular songs on the radio) as a style, although it once was.

  13. It was possible, or popular, or tolerated to define styles in terms of other styles, such as viewing European classical music as dominant, and letting that orient one's description & appraisal of other styles. Such an approach no longer seems viable in any sense.

  14. Within a narrative, there can easily be a sense of authority. One can declare what previous work must be known, how such work relates to other work, where one starts today. (We can see, in fact, that narrative is a form of authority.)

  15. I would say, moreover, that the most manipulable people are those who believe their aesthetic preferences are absolute. (The controversial part of this statement is including the aesthetic qualifier.)

  16. Constructing a narrative out of a series of experiences is not automatic, but rather requires reflection, and usually mediation. However, it is also always underway in our thoughts, and difficult to forestall.

  17. Note that hearing or seeing in strictly historical order is extremely unlikely, if not impossible. The earliest art exists only in traces, and that's only the earliest surviving. No one starts from there today. One might take an interest in the past, and then work backward, for instance.[18] Or one might take no interest in the past, but that does not mean one's experiences will be fully insulated from it, for a variety of reasons (that I don't believe I need to state).

  18. If one works backward into e.g. music that influenced the music one already knows, the effect of having already heard the subsequent music cannot really be undone in one's experience of the earlier music. It can perhaps be ameliorated, but one is already in a totally ahistorical context when exploring history.

  19. It was my interview with Joe Hertenstein that got me thinking concretely about just how much, and in what way, familiarity affects appreciation. So thanks to Joe for setting me off on this path.

  20. Rather than another discussion of what might be meant by "contemporary improvisatory style," please see the other material surrounding this article, such as my narrative of personal encounters with this music. It provides the direct motivation for the current opening.

  21. Some writers, such as Adorno, take the culinary as a pejorative. I do not. It is merely a different medium, to briefly adopt that term, and in fact, in today's world of massive archives, an object that is very literally consumed takes on new possibilities for meaning. One might see it as challenging the meaning of consumption itself.

  22. Some people like to use headphones or some other form of sound isolation. I have resisted this practice, for reasons of health & comfort, but also because of a desire to experience art in the full context of the world. So my "fretting" is something of a misstatement, but it does reflect differences in aesthetic experience.

  23. I do not mean to indicate something precise by "know" in this context. There are various ways to know an object better, or at least to make it seem more familiar as experience. Whether we regard some of these ways as more or less authentic, or more or less helpful than others, they all nonetheless affect our subsequent experience.

  24. What are defining factors in such a change? (We have all heard that "familiarity breeds contempt," but clearly this is not always true, and is probably less likely than the opposite. Of course, it might not be clear what contempt means here....)

  25. Familiarizing ourselves with an object will continue to have an effect, even if that object is subsequently forgotten. The experience of that familiarization remains, even if it becomes untraceable.

  26. In Difference & Repetition, Deleuze remarks that a typology enacts a drama. Aesthetic categories thus reflect a typology that in turn generates an aesthetic context (drama). This view allows aesthetics to permeate typology itself, meaning that our aesthetic judgments mediate our perceptions. (The latter is, succinctly, a statement of the critical value of aesthetics.)

  27. Two notes on this statement: I am borrowing Adorno's term "culture industry," and leaving it relatively unexamined. (How I view it with regard to this topic should emerge in the course of the article, particularly in Chapter IV.) The culture industry manages only a rough formatting of category. Fortunately, it has thus far proven unable to forge a stable container, and events regularly escape.

  28. In other words, the aesthetic values previously structuring master narratives are no longer positioned transcendentally, as they were at one time, but rather emerge out of a desire to serve capitalism.[29] They become "whatever works," or immanent to liberal governmentality. (Transcendence is still claimed, nonetheless.)

  29. The bourgeois revolution did not originally have the ambition to make art (or cultural production more generally) subservient to itself. This took longer to develop & enforce.

  30. It is important to note that positing individual aesthetic response as unique is a form of isolation. It places everyone in their own little box.

  31. Deviance cannot be thoroughly suppressed, but rather becomes spectral in such sensations as déjà vu & jamais vu.

  32. In representation (per se), the grand aesthetic narrative represents itself as transcendent. Representation is supposed (also per Deleuze) by categories like "clear writing" as well, the latter a type of discipline. (We can view this as the conflation of narrative with value.)

  33. Narrative (aesthetic) identity becomes expressed as consistency of self: I continue to have the tastes that I have.

  34. Position-as-artwork becomes critical with the postmodern — and can be seen as a generalization of difference in medium. (In the modern period, a position would have been implied or assumed.) If the postmodern itself is in the past now, and I'm not convinced that it is, the importance of "position" nonetheless remains, or is even intensified.

  35. With this statement, I do not intend to erect the superiority of narrative. Just the opposite. Regular readers will know that, if anything, I have an unhealthy contempt for narrative (and related expository forms). So let me rephrase: It is a particular guise or "shadow" of an artwork that falls upon the plane of narration. If it is nothing but this, it will do nothing more than confirm the narrative (grand or alternate, etc.). However, in other dimensions, it can generate movement.

The What

As previous extended articles in this space were [1], this article is titled with a question. The form of the question should raise more questions: What does the "what" signify?[2] Whereas some titles might have been somewhat artificial as questions, meaning that simply dropping the question mark would make as much (or more) immediate sense, here the question is more deeply embedded. It marks a double, a gap somehow intertwined with consciousness [3], and that gap is the space we want to map: Already I have lost the map, because this is not so much a space or place as it is an activity, and the only way to trace it is to do it. But do what?[4] What is familiar? Let us first consider the double: The question is probably most simply answered with a list of things that can be classified as "familiar."[5] The list would vary by person, and the lists themselves could define familiar by example. But what is familiar? Such an approach misses the process: How do things familiarize themselves to us? What does being of the type "familiar" do subsequently? What is the interaction between things already familiar and those being familiarized, or those unfamiliar? In short, how does familiar function? What is it?

Whereas an adjective works well as label for a list, an adjective indicates process only tangentially. The available choice of verb is the even-more-constructed "familiarize" — and it implies an agency that I do not want to posit generally. We act (perhaps passively [6]) in order to familiarize ourselves with something, but how does that something familiarize itself to us? The language is strained in that direction, and I want to know not only how we act, but how we are acted upon, whether to evoke this affect or by this affect. (This is a related double, reflecting circulation; an affect need not be consciously evoked or perceived in order to affect.) When considering the current article, I had been saying (and repeating to myself [7]) "familiarity" — a noun, or I might say, a state. Familiarity becomes a state; something is in that state or not, again missing process. We must consider the interaction between state (or space) and time: If we consider time [8], we can say (at least naïvely) that the process of familiar happens in a sequence: Something becomes familiar via some kind of persistence or repetition.[9] Subsequent to that [10], its status as "familiar" allows it to affect us in some more particular way. What can we say about this "way?" (We are now a little closer to an activity or process, rather than strictly in a state.)

Beginning with time, moving inexorably with time, consider that movement generates space.[11] Familiar-ing as a kind of repetition (or refrain) forges the space of familiarity. Moreover, movement generates space as extension, not as container: Familiar-ing never stops and familiarity is never closed.[12] The spatial becomes the temporal, because it requires time to move through space.[13] If space becomes striated, so that it can be marked as familiar or unfamiliar, how is the corresponding time marked? Is there a "now" of the familiar? Or is the familiar always now?[14] Does it invoke a stratifying machine [15], such that "the now" becomes stacked with layers of time? Familiar is sequence & simultaneity both. (And where or when is the unfamiliar? Is it askew somehow, or in the same stack of layers?) Beginning again with time, the familiar pulls itself out of time — or mediates machinic temporalities.[16] Memories must be constantly rewritten in order to be recalled [17], yielding the perpetual present of the past, and the collapse of time upon itself. Maybe the familiar is atemporal, its sequence an illusion, the eternal return prior to consciousness.[18] What kind of relationship to time is possible?[19] When does such a relationship occur?

The "what" here is asignifying, a gesture behind or before, and also ahead or after: This is the double, and what marks the gap or the now. The familiar is marked, linguistically, as a state — already a shadow of our topic. The familiar interacts with temporality, but where or when does causality lie between the two? (Does it lie anywhere?) We see or hear or taste or smell or feel the two [20] drive each other and forge territories: Amodal sensation is met in unspatial atemporality. "What" is this nothing.[21] (Perhaps I repeat too much or not enough.) And unspatial atemporality cascades into sense, yielding among other things, the familiar & time.[22] (If the postmodern is positioned after time, can anything be familiar there?[24]) One challenge in writing this article is not to stage it in time [25], because time must be critically examined along with familiarity — or better, time must be verbed with familiar-ing. "What-ing" is peering (more & less than peering) under the sequence, surfing the circulation of affect... a kind of elision to hear the haptic, to taste the Medusa without turning to stone. (Losing movement is a serious problem for this topic, as I hope you will come to appreciate. One cannot stare at it.) So a question of activity & temporality becomes an opening to radical empiricism, gestured by what, beyond the hardened question.[26]

  1. After this, I will be dropping the question format. (It may recur, but not as a standard, as it has been for the past six extended discussions.)

  2. Recurse.

  3. Although I use "consciousness" here with some care, I do not want to make too much of its meaning. This is no attempt to invoke a specific sense of consciousness, but rather to problematize its relations (particularly affective relations) broadly.

  4. I have found the present article very difficult to summarize in casual conversation, i.e. when someone I meet asks me what I'm doing. This is surprising in some ways, because everyone "knows" what familiarity is. But beyond that? It requires a more extended discussion, or the topic will vanish quickly beneath layers of sedimented knowledge.

  5. Chapter III, to some extent, takes up such a list of familiar things.

  6. A "passive action" may be a silly idea: I mean that we remain in place for this action to occur, rather than avoiding it. We continue to be exposed, a necessity for familiarization.

  7. In other words, this topic familiarized itself to me via its noun form. So some relics from that imperfect orientation are sure to remain in the exposition.

  8. I want to emphasize the "if" here. I do not want to give time any primacy, but I do want to consider it within the perspective of this opening. The topic will return (if not eternally).

  9. Note an inverse form of this statement in Remède de Fortune, Part A, note [75], on the happiness of time.

  10. I question the extent to which these two events (familiarizing, affect) are actually sequenced, but this is (as noted) the simple or naïve approach. Hopefully it serves its expository purpose.

  11. The idea of movement generating space is borrowed from Erin Manning in Relationscapes, where it was inspired by dance and Australian Aboriginal art.

  12. It might be worthwhile to discuss death as a kind of closure.

  13. Deleuze says that Hölderlin discovers the emptiness of pure time. We might consider it to be time without the body & movement, unable to create space — yet for Hölderlin, already stuck in the mode of container: Extension knows no emptiness, because it is only itself. (One might feel the weight of history & the familiar in this effort to escape from nothing.)

  14. "The familiar is always now" might be one way to evoke Nietzsche's eternal return.

  15. The stratifying machine is yet another reference to Remède de Fortune, in this case assertion four: Not to reflect on that too much here, but I should note that risk management assumes a degree of familiarity with risk, or at least the structure of risk. Such a regime seeks familiarity, but at a distance.

  16. "Machinic temporalities" is derived from Lazzarato in Signs and Machines. Such temporalities form and/or result from assemblages.

  17. That memories are rewritten during the process of recall was determined empirically from physical neurological experiment.

  18. One's family life begins prior to self-consciousness.

  19. Affects, of their nature, relate to a circular sense of time. (This remark can be further related to remarks on circular or straight time according to Eros or Thanatos respectively.)

  20. Note that familiarity & temporality do not form a duality. (See Hierarchy as rupture, Part II.) There is no division or opposition as presented. (One could work them into a duality, most likely, if one so desired, e.g. by placing them within a transcendental framework that figures an internal-external opposition in sensation. I will not pursue this here.)

  21. I have had relatively little feedback on Remède de Fortune, but one thing recurs: Bewilderment over Part A. I noted already in the text that it might seem absurd to undertake this "elimination" procedure on Fortune, but that is where I flesh out the sketch of a figure by making the figure disappear. Here I will do the same. The familiar will both appear & disappear, the latter no less significantly. "What" traces the disappearance.

  22. The nexus of time & familiarity can be explored anthropologically, perhaps in its more typical locus as identity [23], but I cannot do so systematically here. The question can perhaps be pursued by others: Where have other cultures placed this what? Is it a meaningful difference?

  23. Since I mentioned my intention to read Time and Identity in a similar context, I feel compelled to note that I was very disappointed with this anthology. I could describe it dispassionately as "analytic philosophy," or less charitably as the equivalent of watching a few episodes of the sitcom The Big Bang Theory. In either case, other work on the topic is probably warranted.

  24. Is not this question of familiarity the great joke of the postmodern? Not only does familiarity remain without time, it replaces time. (Think of quotation & collage.)

  25. This should save me from the awkward need to loop through the views of different eras in order to extricate them from each other. Here we have no eras, only the eternal now.

  26. Once the question is hard (solidified), one is already staring, and one can no longer move to touch the topic.

Recognition, difference, other

The philosophical, or epistemological, topic of recognition has largely revolved around Hegel.[1] I am certainly not in a position to reprise the entire history of the topic in this opening, but some thoughts by way of orientation are warranted. What is the same, and how do we know it's the same? The question is perhaps most relevant with people, since people change [2]: How do I recognize my friend after a few years? How do I recognize myself? Until recently, (in Western thought) recognition has tended to involve some type of "ideal" identity.[3,4] An ideal identity for comparison yields the idea of representation, i.e. specific instances compared to (or derived from) a general form that represents them. (Western science has relied on representation in order to give privileged meaning to e.g. equations modeling processes.[5,6]) This structure implies a hierarchy, such that no actual (individual, specific) instance can be as valid as its ideal form — which is transcendent.[7,8] It builds a lack or deficiency into all actual entities.[9] Moreover, it invests otherness with that fundamental deficiency — the other is even farther down the hierarchy from the transcendent ideal.[10] This thought structure is reflected in social hierarchy in obvious & painful ways.[11]

One straightforward response to the hierarchy imposed by (ideal) representation is simply to invert it: Individual instances are supreme, and their representation is only partial, i.e. individuals can be represented in many ways for many purposes, none of them capturing the full individuality. Representation becomes a contingent (on purpose [12]) shadow of the actual. Such an inversion continues to enact a hierarchy [13], but does provide the possibility of difference without lack: The other cannot be compared against representation, because it exceeds any representation. In such a hierarchy, the actual is all difference, so whence recognition? Perhaps we should ask not only if recognition necessarily leads to representation, but if recognition is always partial. What is the source of recognition itself? In other words, whereas we certainly believe we recognize people & things (and maybe relations, processes, etc.), is this notion somehow cultural? It seems to be more than that, but I leave open the possibility that, as we learn to perceive [14], we learn recognition itself, and so it could be otherwise.[15] I want to consider the idea of partial recognition more carefully [16], and I want to view it not so much according to an inverted hierarchy as per above, but on one plane: Suppose that a recognition event implies nothing about what is or isn't more real or meaningful: One simply recognizes (registers) some similarity.[17]

I mention some similarity as opposed to "a" similarity, because the latter might imply discrete preexisting categories. We do develop such categories, whether individually or culturally [18], but they can be blurred: A similarity that crosses our categories might be confusing or eerie. What of a (perception of) similarity that enacts a category? Such a category might never present itself explicitly [19], but if it does, it can become a kind of representation. Some categories & representations are very familiar in this regard, but not necessarily any more real for it.[20] Nonetheless, our perception is (culturally) tuned to pick out some categories ahead of others, and typology traditionally supports a hierarchy.[21] Indeed, we might not actually recognize our most entrenched perceptual categories: Nonetheless, they function (obviously very powerfully) in our perception. On the other end of a spectrum, there are similarities that might be "too small" to notice or recognize. That is, we have never consciously learned (noticed) them, and they might not have any particular influence beyond themselves.[22] In any of these cases, however, recognized or not, we can say that some kind of perception of similarity or familiarity is happening, and not only happening, but having an influence on our perception. In this sense, familiarity is more broad than recognition. We might call the latter a doubling into an event, whereas the former is less specific, more fluid (and could be spectral, etc.).

Recognition embeds (engulfs) difference. I asked above about recognizing ourselves, and even that inquiry already embeds a difference between the self that is perceiving & the self that is perceived. Such is recognition: There must be a "gap" to make an event. (If we stare steadfastly at an object, such that there is no gap in perception, we do not think of our continuing to perceive the object as recognition. It's the same perception.) For recognition, there must be a return, an "again": There is that thing again. Its return enacts a difference, between the before & the now [23] — it's a difference that is closed (or bridged) in the event of recognition.[24] Without that event, similarities & differences swirl; they no not "snap" into a hierarchy. Familiarity can function on this level, and it also requires difference. The familiar is not the same. (A similarity is not an identity.) Without hierarchy, these similarities & differences can cut across perceptual planes & categories: The familiar can function at any conceptual level.[25,26] One might say it has a flattening effect, at least prior to categorical recognition.

I have referred to time as a kind of continuity or discontinuity, but it is only one concept among many that might apply. We might ask about other threads of continuity, or gaps. What makes something the same, rather than similar? As also suggested already, perhaps there is nothing the same, even if some similarities seem so close to us that they do not present a gap at all. Time presents us with repetition, and so we might think of "the same" object (or non-object) repeating again & again in our perception.[28] (The discrete character of repetition illustrates the gap.) What of repetition in space or some other domain? And what of our perception? I have bowed to Western ocularcentrism by privileging ideas such as "staring" in this discussion.[29] If we set aside the notion of sight as primary, what do our other senses say about gaps? Are there gaps between our senses? If we posit that a smell cannot be the same as a sound, can it be similar? I would argue that thoughts on sensory crossings hint powerfully at the idea of the similar per se.[30,31,32] Further, what of knowledge & error? Is similarity a kind of knowledge?[33,34] Does knowledge itself enforce hierarchy?[35,36,37]

Because recognition involves the canceling (or engulfing) of difference, challenging the hegemony of recognition is critical to providing difference with a positive meaning, and in turn, rehabilitating otherness. If our selves present uncertain boundaries, the other provides a horizon [38]: It can become hope [39], otherness as inexhaustible resource.[41] Does difference require a contradiction? Such binary logic would seem to be at the root of negativity [42], and binary logic is entrenched in Western thought (mathematics [43]). Differing is not a binary process, and others do not generically arise of contradiction, but rather of pure otherness.[44] (In other words [45], there is no sense in which possibility can be circumscribed in advance.[46]) Difference proliferates [47], whether it is recognized or not, and otherness is always more than ourselves.[50]

  1. Hegel's master-slave dialectic continues to be cited often, for instance. (The asymmetry is telling.) Hegel's ideas are central to many of the thoughts I will repeat here, meaning that many predate him, were developed or changed by him, etc.: Hence "revolve" around him.

  2. One can certainly point out that everything changes, in some sense. It is impossible to step in the same river twice, as the saying (paraphrasing Heraclitus) goes. So using "people" as an example is not at all necessary, but I think nonetheless strongly evocative on the subject of recognition.

  3. Platonic forms have embodied the ideal well enough. (Note that, as mentioned in other articles, I do not actually believe that Plato was seriously advocating this idea.)

  4. The ideal, motivated by recognition, has also generated typology. In other words, types are preexisting, and people or things must fit into them. (The ideal has also given a precedence to nouns.)

  5. Latour has made considerable progress mapping (Western) science (rather, its process) without privileging representation.

  6. It might be observed that representation is required to give any meaning to modeling equations. (Perhaps such an observation goes too far afield, but it bears consideration.)

  7. See Hierarchy as rupture on how such transcendence relates to religion, the self, and various other domains.

  8. Aristotle is credited with "hylomorphism" — the idea that being is composed of matter & form. Hylomorphism has dominated much of Western thought, in partnership with representation. Although I briefly critique the idea of "form" here, its partner in this duality, "matter," is also problematic. (And with it, political ideas such as "materialism," which essentially seek to invert the duality.) Latour provides a clear critique of "material" in An Inquiry into Modes of Existence. (This observation also explains why I found my own previous writing on this subject so unsatisfying.)

  9. Representation has applied more to entities or things than it has to processes or relations, hence the rise of relation-based ontologies in the twentieth century to escape some of these issues.

  10. Representation, particularly ideal (transcendent) representation, can also yield image: For Barthes's speaking lover, the image is precisely that from which he is excluded. (Ideas on image, or icon, could be explored further in this context....)

  11. I do not want to claim that representation predates social hierarchy. Such a claim would certainly be false. These things inspire each other in a feedback loop, however, such that there is a real sense in which representation goes on to further strengthen social hierarchy. In this opening, the focus is on that aspect of the loop.

  12. The suggestion that representation be contingent (specifically) on purpose retains the instrumental emphasis of Western science. (This sense of purpose relates to Christian teleology as well.) Contingency can be (and sometimes is) much more arbitrary.

  13. I am critical of hierarchy in general. (From that perspective, representations are simply other differences.)

  14. We do learn to perceive. We learn to sort undifferentiated sensory input so as to pick out what is important — this sense of importance is largely cultural, since purely biological reflexes are processed differently. (The latter is a bit of a misstatement, since in a very real sense, everything we do is biological, but I hope the meaning is clear enough for the present context.)

  15. People with neurological differences might experience recognition differently. (Or not at all?) Manning raises the example of how people on the autism spectrum distinguish objects, for instance. Their sense of entity & relation is different.

  16. One might make an analogy to "part(ial)-objects" here. I do not believe this would be wrong, but the analogy can easily be overextended.

  17. The word "similarity" also has layers of theoretical meaning attached. This seems hard to avoid, even though I'd like to use a word with as few associations as possible. (Another choice, also with a theoretical history, is resemblance, but I think it has even less desirable implications.)

  18. This article is full of words that indicate some sort of categorical similarity: The word "sort" immediately previous is one such. "Kind" & "like" are others that I use. I use "type" more consciously, because I relate it to a particular historical-theoretical apparatus. The others are intended to invoke a more generic similarity, but still come with histories.[27]

  19. Walter Benjamin says that perception of similarity is a flashing up that cannot be held fast. From this perspective, a categorical representation would have to be created via a different process, so as to impinge on (or subsequently justify) such a perception.

  20. A canonical example is race: Racial categories are very influential in contemporary (and earlier) USA, but they cannot be put on a firm biological basis. There are much less emotionally charged examples: For instance, people from different parts of the world will categorize colors differently (and some have far fewer color words, etc.). I could not resist juxtaposing these examples, but of course the latter does not explain the former.

  21. One response to hierarchical typology is to concentrate on thinking across categories. These can be strengthened or challenged via our perceptions, depending on our attunement.

  22. The "too small" & "too big" similarities might not be so different, despite the apparent presence of similarities we notice "in between" them. It might be preferable to simply talk about similarities we do & don't notice.

  23. I am using time as an example of difference. One could use master-slave, or any number of other differences that constitute gaps for recognition. (Sexual difference under the regime of heteronormativity would make for an interesting example to elaborate on recognition. Hegel's 1-2-3 logic — the 3, dialectical resolution, would be coupling — is rather telling there.)

  24. We might say there is tension in recognition, a point at which the difference we have perceived dissolves — or becomes secondary to — the similarity we then perceive. (The former interpretation illustrates the destruction inherent to recognition: Closing the gap or releasing the tension is literal destruction of difference. Death can be viewed in this way, as closing a gap.)

  25. For example, the familiar is not confined to one part of the content-expression duality, but cuts across it. (This is familiar as relation.)

  26. I will suggest that familiarity-across-concept makes for something of a summary of Mozi's "flat" approach to similarity & representation, particularly linguistic representation.[27] (This is a longterm source for my thinking on the subject, at least.)

  27. I have not said much about language as representation, and that is probably something I should correct, but this note will have to do for now.

  28. Examinations of personal identity often focus on repetition. What makes us the same now as we were then? What if we lose consciousness or suffer some other major change to our senses? Etc. (Deleuze believes that Kant's idea of self, the dominant one for Western philosophy, can only exist in time.)

  29. I will note that ocularcentrism not only places vision above the other senses, but encourages us to use vision to structure & integrate our sensorium as a whole. So it is more than a preference. (I saw the phrase "the ocularcentrism of the Western episteme" used on Wikipedia as not an idea that might be disputed, but as an example of pure gibberish that is impossible to understand! Pitiful. In case the reader thought this point was too obvious to belabor....)

  30. I would further argue that synesthesia is trained out of people, and thus only "exceptional" in this highly mediated context. Small children are taught to isolate their senses. Why? Simply because sensory hierarchy recapitulates social hierarchy.

  31. Closer to the inspiration in this space, music plays with repetition, and hence with ideas on continuity, recognition, difference, etc.

  32. Have I gone too far — into the ideal — in suggesting that amodal sensation yields a sense of similarity (or anything) in itself? Yes. We must pull back (recoil?).

  33. I might rephrase this in terms of analogy rather than similarity, thus invoking Descola's ideas on analogic cultures, a description that includes most of the so-called major civilizations, including Europe prior to the modern era (and, as one can readily observe, into the modern era as well, even if analogism is increasingly obscured by naturalism [48]).

  34. We can also consider repression as a form of non-knowledge or forgetting. I do not want to define forgetting as negative, however: Repression becomes negative precisely in the failure to forget, not in the forgetting. (We might consider positive forgetting as specifically forgetting that is unmediated by representation, but perhaps this is too far afield.)

  35. At the level of truth, there is no escaping the idea that knowledge enforces hierarchy. If one can be right or wrong, such a duality creates the conditions from which hierarchy will emerge, even if rightness & wrongness can be distributed across domains. For those of us in "the knowledge business," so to speak, this is not a fun observation. It probably explains my attraction to intellectual genealogy, at least in part, since one can refrain from ascribing rightness or wrongness, but instead seek the source (and often, purpose) of particular ideas. It's an imperfect solution, but then, who believes in perfection? (Probably those who also believe that the knowledge business should sustain hierarchy.)

  36. Not all error is about knowledge: For example, there has been a persistent thread of problems arising from solutions, instead of the other way around. (The current technology industry is only reprising longterm backwardness on this issue.) In general, predefined categories are not a lapse in knowledge per se, but can certainly yield error. What prompts & structures our thoughts?

  37. This is my own version of non-philosophy: Must we continue to consider certain topics of the ancients & others? (Must we think about triangles?) I say no: All of the classical categories, the privilege of category, can be overturned: The similar can unfold without recognition.

  38. I have written about "The self" in this sense in Hierarchy as rupture, specifically as borderline. The "horizon" idea is borrowed from Spivak.

  39. Perhaps I should note the difference between horizon (hope) and emulation. Emulation, to identify with the other, is a kind of cancellation of difference, and so an act that destroys (to the extent that it is possible [40]) otherness.

  40. These "possibilities" for otherness must be distinguished by perspective: It is possible to destroy the productivity of otherness for oneself, but impossible to even touch otherness as chaos, although it can touch you. (There are more perspectives & relations than this.)

  41. One cannot take this "inexhaustible resource" idea too far: "Nature" is presented specifically as other in order to justify unlimited environmental damage. There is very much a tension here, however, that must be noted: Even within this canonical attitude of capital, otherness is not entirely negative. It is seen literally as a reservoir.

  42. Deleuze notes that (proof by logical) contradiction is the bourgeois weapon of choice: It asks, fundamentally, if not us, then who? (Originally, it would have argued against the hereditary aristocracy, noting their contradictions.) We remain politically dominated (at least in USA) by "lesser of two evils" thinking — the logic of contradiction used to limit our choices. (This as the bourgeoisie becomes the hereditary aristocracy.)

  43. One can easily highlight e.g. the law of the excluded middle as a problem in this regard. It is not as though binary logic hides its theoretical limitations.

  44. One might call this pure otherness chaos, in the positive sense.

  45. I am not sure if it is fortunate or unfortunate that I use the word "other" in phrases such as this while writing under a heading including "other" — but I am aware of it.

  46. There is a sense in which possibility can be circumscribed in advance: We can harm or delude ourselves in this manner. (We can limit ourselves, but not in the ways we seek. There is always some excess lurking to burst into the event. [40])

  47. Indeed capitalism positions itself to feed on difference.[48] (This is a bit of an extension to the argument I made in Crusading fashion regarding fashion itself.) It exploits the tension of difference while simultaneously denying it.[49]

  48. In the domain of finance, capitalists call a specific sort of feeding on difference "arbitrage," and characterize it as "an opportunity." (The principles of arbitrage are also applied outside of finance per se, increasingly often under that name. The idea goes back much farther than the name: In some sense, it was always the basis of the imperial trade circuits. Individual tourist-writers even began to exploit such price differences to travel around the world, producing handbooks, well before tourism became an industry. See Braudel on Gemelli Careri et al. on this last point.)

  49. Whereas the systems of analogism proliferate difference & comparison, naturalism denies a spectrum of difference, that of material substance. (See also [8].) Hence, capitalism (driving the hegemony of naturalism) can be said to feed on the analogic differences denied by naturalism.

  50. Continuing the train of thought in [43] (and, to an extent, [5,6]), the axiom of choice can be viewed as denial of the excess of the other: The claim to be able to select an arbitrary member of an uncountable (in the technical sense) set tames uncountability & excess, placing it within the frame of the subject (in another technical sense).

Object ecology

The familiar is the other. It is the object for us, as subjects, to perceive. Such perception is via the senses, or perhaps via thought alone, but it creates [1] a perceiver & a perceived. The perceived might be tangible, a substantive or noun, but it might also be a motion or quality, ephemeral — anything that can present itself, even momentarily, to the senses.[2,3] If the perceived object is our topic, how do we make it our subject? What relations do objects have among themselves? How do they act? When we are able to view the objects of perception as subjects like ourselves, and we usually do this when looking at another person, we answer these questions by imputing experiences similar to our own.[4] We are unlikely to impute similar experience to e.g. a rock or an aroma or a shadow, however.[5] Some relations among objects are identified by modern physics, e.g. via gravity. However, physics does not come close to exhausting the possibilities of object relation. How do objects transfer affect, for instance? How do they make us feel? Fortunately or unfortunately, we already have a field of inquiry that focuses on objects, and how they make us feel: aesthetics.

Rather than name aesthetics in the title of this opening, I have raised the topic of ecology: The origin of the term is in biology, the relations between living organisms & with their environment. However, the crisis of climate change has put the emphasis more on the environment, and less on the organisms [6]: A weather pattern becomes an entity to be studied, and not a mere condition to be noted. "Ecology" becomes more inclusive, not strictly biological or organism-based, and our subject-object duality thus becomes challenged as the Earth imposes itself on us.[7] The complexity of our environment is such that particular relations cannot be so easily isolated from the rest: Everything comes to depend on everything else.[8] The crisis & the latter observation (which I do not think is at all difficult to make [9]), are reflected in a range of theoretical output on this very topic: object relations, complexity, etc. I will not attempt to survey that output, but do want to note the basic message: People need to care about their effect on the planet, because that effect will come back upon them in turn.[10] (Fear over the death of god is replaced by a more tangible fear, that for the death of the Earth.[11]) And the theory, much as I'm doing briefly here, demonstrates how other (perhaps seemingly unrelated) thought structures relate to environmental destruction. This is a basic function of theory: To show how something does or doesn't affect something else. It is, therefore, inherently ecological.

To some degree, we can ground environmentalism in self-interest. However, that ground is at most partial: Some people benefit by producing ecological destruction, and the people who will suffer the most for it may not be born yet.[13,14] This is (almost always, implicitly) an economic argument. Here there is a different emphasis.[15] So, what is the aesthetic argument? The aesthetic argument is too easy [16], that a world of ecological destruction & suffering is not pleasing. It is still an argument of self-interest [17], but asks us to look at the larger canvas, so to speak. In aesthetic theory, art is not instrumentalized [18], and I would argue that it is simply impossible to consider numbers in a bank account to be more pleasing than e.g. the play of children or the babbling of a brook, absent instrumentalization. So, for me, environmentalism & aesthetics mesh well — moreover, they are both about object relations. To talk of an object ecology makes sense in both cases.

But object ecology contradicts the monad! (The latter is Adorno's image of the artwork sufficient in itself.[21]) I will reframe ecology as situation: The object is situated, much as the subject is situated.[23] Is the object's situation actually much like the subject's? (Does it make sense to talk of a subject ecology?[24]) Whereas the subject acts, the object is acted upon: Although that is the definition, we know objects can affect us. (Think of e.g. a teddy bear or the Olympic torch.) Affect sticks to objects, or can be passed along by them transiently. (Think of the differing nature of affect in the previous examples, whether their selective affect on different people, or how the affect might dissipate.) I have already mentioned the array of theory appearing on this topic, and that includes an impetus from computer software.[26] The idea of computers with agency can be troubling, but it also shows that we already have thoughts about object agency. Things impinge upon our experience: They force themselves on us with their presence, they transfer affects, they demand we perceive them as things.[27] They become familiar so that we can perceive them [28], so that we can remember them: In their affects, objects may constitute memory.[29,30] And not only "ordinary" (or spectral, or...) objects interact with memory & familiarity: So too does the artwork: Beyond any monadological properties, our interactions with it change how it affects us, that is change its relations (its situation), and so change what it is.

Affect may be the most significant domain for object agency, or at least agency on us, but it is also change or movement that enforces legibility & the perception of the object as such (as familiar).[31] Its situation can involve sliding easily in & out of perception.[32] Objects might also stand in the way, become an objection, or the object of study (such as ecology). They can exceed us in both stasis & change, perhaps both at once. They can elicit desire.[33] The latter, in duality with disgust (or recoil), is called upon to confirm the subject-object duality itself (and with it, dialectics) in turn. This argument (with which I do not agree [34]) illustrates the self-referential situation of object relations: The object depends on the object depends on the object. We can see Adorno's monad here, but only if we maintain the subject-object split. Transient affect, such as the flashing of the familiar, can make that split uneasy. Where is the subject at that moment? Perhaps the object is not delineated; perhaps neither is; perhaps there is only the perception, the relation without endpoints. It may be paradoxical to shift to an object-less (subject-less) epistemology via aesthetics, considering aesthetics' emphasis on the object [35], but that is nonetheless the intention (here & more broadly), via an emphasis on the relation of perception. Add to that the situation [36], and we begin to perceive an ecological-aesthetic epistemology (or paradigm [37]) — to be articulated here around one affect, the familiar.

  1. For the purposes of this opening, I will posit that perception itself — as relation — establishes the perceiver & perceived, rather than the latter duality preexisting a perception event. In these terms, the relation is only recreated (or sustained) via repetition, or perhaps it is not repeated, and perceiver & perceived become something else.

  2. The perceived might be pure hallucination as well. There can certainly be familiarity in a hallucination.

  3. When we think of "an object," we tend to think of a physical object with a firm boundary as an entity, i.e. a rock: We know what is or is not part of the rock; we can touch it, manipulate it with our hands, etc. Although I am greatly expanding what "an object" is (but not beyond what you can find in most any dictionary), I admit to also thinking of such physical examples as canonical. I do not want to emphasize physicality in this note, however, because sensation always has a physiological component, so that is a given. Rather, I want to emphasize that a boundary is not necessary — nor as I saw in one dictionary, a "focus": The object of perception might never achieve (if this is an achievement) any kind of focus or delineation.

  4. I should not overstate the extent to which people have imputed similar experience to others. This is denied every day in e.g. racist or sexist discourse. To some extent, however, we see other people (and maybe animals, and...?) as able to perceive, act & relate as we do.

  5. This unwillingness to impute similar experience to e.g. a rock is partly cultural, however: A totemic society, such as in Aboriginal Australia, might view the situation rather differently.

  6. There is also a movement to treat the entire "environment" or Earth as a living thing, etc. In any case, the embeddedness of living organisms, including humans, is more appreciated than it was during the modern/imperial era.

  7. The deities of antiquity personified natural forces, so as to retain a presentation of subject-object relations in a straightforward way. (Can this be said of cultures with a totally different grammar?)

  8. Continuing on [7], it is easy to view the personalization (or anthropomorphism) of Christian monotheism as an attempt to give voice to "everything" as such, but its emphasis on transcendence has distorted the mutual dependence: God is pulled out of complex circulation as an entity with no dependencies. (We get the form of a tree or pyramid, rather than that of a swirl.) That this idea can support the notion of an indestructible planetary ecosystem is unsurprising. (Note further that many world deities required maintenance of some sort by lower beings. It is thus easy to see the "pagan" system as more compatible with environmentalism than is Christianity.)

  9. The dependence of even the largest thing on the very smallest has been noted in many times & places, in many ways. It is not a new idea by any means, but does challenge the norms of hierarchical society.

  10. Per [9], this observation sounds very much like karma.

  11. As implied already in [8], these singular death ideas are closely linked. (Curiously, Descola actually places the origins of environmental philosophy with the Puritans, but I will not pursue that here. Christianity has not been totally incompatible with feeling a need to care for god's creation.[12]) The "monotheist" position makes a great deal of sense regarding the Earth: There is only one (whatever the space travel folks might want to believe).

  12. The Eden myth not only establishes the idea of responsibility for creation, but also prefigures the current crisis: Must we be put out of Eden again? (I consider this last line of thinking to be dangerous, but it should be noted.)

  13. Many arguments attempt to justify the value of the future via self-interest by referring to one's (hypothetical) children, grandchildren, etc. One's "genes" must survive... this is the fashionable evolutionary talk. Although I have children, I do not consider this theoretical angle to be very satisfying. For one, it recapitulates the notion that one should be most concerned with one's own offspring, and produces a world (necro)politics in accord with that emphasis.

  14. Putting a price on time is a major problem with capitalism. It involves ideas such as usury & the stratification machine (per Remède de Fortune).

  15. The emphasis here is not only aesthetic, but also specifically critical of the dominance of the economic domain.

  16. In other words, the aesthetic argument is easy to dismiss because it seems so obvious. There is no "work" in making it, and hence no value.

  17. The only way to go beyond a minor rehabilitation of self-interest is to change the concept of the self, but not as per [13].

  18. The injunction not to instrumentalize art has not held at all times & places, and that emphasis may be shifting here & now.[19] The idea of e.g. a well-crafted tool continues to have an appeal, and I would argue it's truly an aesthetic appeal. That art should be "useless" has been a way to critique the idea of usefulness, but that certainly has its limits, even if the useless still (very much) has a place. In any case, according to theory (at least from Kant to Adorno), aesthetic appreciation is divorced from use value.[20]

  19. I believe this shift of emphasis may be underway largely because of the very poor (and declining) quality of mass consumer goods.

  20. So maybe [16] is incorrect after all, or maybe only contradictory. Contradictions can be productive in aesthetics.

  21. Adorno noted that the subject position had been explored far more than the object position in twentieth century philosophy (particularly since Freud [22]), and called for more emphasis on the object. However, his view of the artwork as monad would seem to preclude an object ecology, i.e. the play of objects without a subject. So perhaps this is why his view remained a call.

  22. Note that Lacan grounds subjectivity (rather, desire) in the "object a." I would argue that this is actually a further reification of subject-object duality. However, it can also be viewed as an attempt to balance subject exploration with object exploration, just as Adorno wanted. (I cannot help but think that Adorno would have embraced the dialectical consequences, but this is precisely where I find a problem.)

  23. The idea of situation, situatedness — or situated knowledge — is borrowed from feminist epistemology & standpoint theory.

  24. We tend to take the ecological as that which acts upon us, so that even as we view ourselves as subjects, we become objects in that mode. However, our actions also affect the ecology, and the interaction — this swirling — subverts the subject-object duality itself. So whereas it probably makes less sense to talk of a subject ecology, the real point is that ecology does not let this duality remain separate: It emphasizes the relation, and not the endpoints of that relation [1,25], because those points are in other relations too. They might be subsumed by their relations; at the very least, inputs become outputs.

  25. Note that naturalism, by treating the mind & body differently, attempts to reassert the superiority of some terms over relations, whereas analogism depended on relations.

  26. Object oriented programming has decades of history, and is currently quite popular. (Java is a popular object-oriented language, for instance.) In such software, objects have their own "methods" which are basically means of action: An object's method will be called by something else in the system, whether an agent (e.g. user) or the programming environment, but the method nonetheless belongs to the object, and will only function on the object's terms.

  27. With the advent of artificial intelligence, we will soon (if not already) have things demanding to be perceived as people. (This presents another domain for capitalist manipulation of perception: What is the "compromise" position when many or most of the supposed stakeholders are literally manufactured?)

  28. We might say that familiarity constitutes the object itself. It could not be perceived as separate, as an entity, otherwise.

  29. Beyond the physical reality of storing memories in "objects" in our brains, an external object can prompt us to remember. This is a common experience. (This observation raises the question of relation between affect & memory, a relation to be probed here via the familiar.)

  30. Some objects are very good at persistence, much better than we are, and so become more than (our) mere memory.

  31. Can affect be considered a kind of movement? Perhaps it can, in some sense, although it need not "touch" in any physical sense in order to transfer. (There is some question regarding what I am attempting to contrast with the opening to this paragraph. For one, I want to position affect as prior to the object — this will be elaborated in the next two Chapters.)

  32. It should be noted that some (types of) people slide far too easily out of perception as well. (It is no coincidence that an idea like "situated knowledge" arose from such a milieu: People in that situation are accustomed to being treated as objects.)

  33. Marx has already investigated this power via commodity fetishism, but the object's power to fuel desire exceeds the commodity. (For instance, there is necessary shelter or nutrition, the classic fetish, etc.) It may be worth noting the object as the "object of power" per se. It can mark someone as its holder, creating power from that duality.

  34. One can find Zizek arguing this point repeatedly these days, for example. (It is part of his emphasis on the continuing relevance of pure/classical Marxist dialectic.) I do not accept the idea of something negative, recoil, constituting the body.

  35. Perhaps I am hearing Adorno's call too well, to the point of absurdity: We stare at the object ever more intently until it disappears, until objectness disappears, and with it, subjectness.

  36. I should acknowledge Debord's "situationist" ideas here, although that is not my direct reference. (See [23].) More theoretical connections in this area are probably worth tracing here, but I will stop with this note.

  37. I include the word "paradigm" to acknowledge Guattari. (It is not what I would choose otherwise. Nor is ethics, as can already be observed.)

Queering family

Although it's common to refer to something as "familiar" [1], the obvious & explicit tie to the idea of family is rarely interrogated.[2] The linguistic origin of the term family itself can be explored further, although I will keep that brief: The Latin familia originally referred in English to servants or a retinue, members of the household that today we might not consider to be family. In effect, family was a foreign term used by conquerors speaking a foreign language [3], but eventually came to displace native terms.[4] It is now dominant in e.g. political rhetoric, whether that concerns the "nuclear family" or the "extended family." A young child will know the word family. However, as the nuclear/extended juxtaposition indicates, the idea of family is not necessarily [5] strictly defined: It might be blood relations, people living together in a household (the classical definition), include relations by marriage, or other voluntary or involuntary types of relation. If I note that living in a household is a kind of relation, then we can observe that family is always a kind of relation. (This orientation suits me quite well here, because I want to treat familiar as a kind of relation.)

Families are objects of study, whether in the current statistical (political) domain exemplified by the census, or in their historical-sociological development. That said, I was surprised not to find more provocative histories reflecting contemporary theoretical concerns. (Perhaps I should not be surprised, given the politicization.[6,7]) One issue, it seemed to me, was that the idea of "family" was defined in advance of most studies: So we get a liberal feminist history of women & children as a history of the family.[8] Whereas that approach has its relevance within our current milieu, it takes the relations constituting family as given, rather than emergent. For me, wanting to take a relational approach — and writing regarding the familiar, rather than family per se — the a priori emphasis on women & children is inadequate.[9] (I cannot undertake an anthropological survey here, but one does not have to look far to find e.g. cultures where parents do not live together.) So what would be adequate? Looking back at the possible definitions for family in the previous paragraph, I want to consider ideas of voluntary & involuntary relationships more broadly. Historically, we can observe that women & children are more likely to be in involuntary relationships (and an infant certainly has no control over who its family is), but those groups do not exhaust the category: Slaves, reluctant parents of an infant, reluctant parents (or extended relatives) of a child getting married, siblings (even as adults), an arranged marriage for the male, etc. There is no shortage of people who might feel that, at least to some extent, they have involuntary family relations. (In a patriarchal society, such as ours, no doubt men have more choices on average [10], but I do not want to dwell on this obvious fact.)

A term I encounter often enough is "family of choice"[11] — a clear contrast to the involuntary, usually blood or affinal, relations above. The idea takes on a double meaning in the queer community, because not only might one's previous family be prompted to exclude someone different, but one might be less likely to have children [12] (or, at least until recently, marry [13]). The idea of family becomes tied to heteronormativity: The idea(l) of family is tied intentionally to heteronormativity for political reasons of control [15]: Conform or be cast out, whether said by the patriarch or the state, or some blend of the two. With the family as the familiar, as source of comfort and what one knows, it's a powerful message.[16] The queer, though, is unable to conform.[17] So the queer no longer has a family [18]: Enter the family of choice.[19] (Although I am taking the queer as canonical, particularly with the double meaning, it need not be so. One's family of origin may be dead. One may dislike one's family of origin for any number of reasons, and avoid them. One may simply be far from one's family of origin, even if one loves them. One's family of origin may be smaller than the love one feels for people.[20] There are many scenarios, going back to the classic dramas. Hybrid circumstances are common, and few family boundaries are as rigid as they might seem.[21,22]) Choice not only might put one, or reflect being, in a non-normative position with respect to one's family of origin, but might affect whether or how one relates to propagation of family. One might not have children, for a variety of reasons [23], might not choose to care for nieces or nephews or other biological surrogates, might not adopt, might not participate in the younger generation at all. Such a choice, presumably [24], involves prioritizing other relations. However, such a choice (or non-choice) also involves eschewing supposed genetic or evolutionary imperatives.[25] Without ongoing (family) relations to the previous or next generation — and one's family of choice might be entirely of one's age group [26] — one can feel outside of such a hierarchy or (family) tree: One's life, one's loves, one's preoccupations happen on a plane, a plane that cannot possibly reproduce itself. Such an image shifts the nature-nurture duality: It tears one's values from the domain of genetic reductionism, and makes us ask what family is or can be. If family is an autobiography, autobiography on this plane (which one might characterize as being of peers [27]) has no beginning or end — or maybe only an end.[28]

If the family as household is the basic unit of economic power [29], that power propagates not only within the family, but more broadly via the familiar. Family becomes ideology: The state is your family [30]; family is about love, and so the state is about love. The "state" of love [31] figures the familiar (and this no matter one's associations [32]). Family — and perhaps even more powerfully in oblique reference — becomes the site for intersecting means of (bio)control: Control within the family via the household economy; concern for one's family enforcing behavior needed to remain in (or attain) a privileged economic position of support; allusion to (happy [33]) family memories to manipulate affect. Although these processes intersect powerfully, they do not always align; they may conflict. (We will use the familiar, in part, to trace such conflict. Much of the conflict remains at the level of affect, but it may erupt into full view.) Some other issues surrounding familiar-via-family: The nuclear (and perhaps extended) family is a power structure, serving to internalize larger structures. The larger power structures grant (or might not grant) recognition to the family — this can be technically in a court, or in everyday life. Population is "managed" via necropolitics directed differentially at families: One's (genetic) traits might become a source of political conflict, not only individually, but in anticipation of their being (or not) passed along.[34] The family provides a means to inherit privilege & property. In turn, one might "owe" one's family — owe them what?[36] For all that connection, both arising from & imposed upon families, notions of the "separate" liberal subject are still enforced.[37] The family yields (to), then, not only a money (or tangible goods) economy, but an affective economy.[38] It also yields (to) an ethic, a hybrid of work & sexual ethics, perhaps more real than either: This is one place to locate the familiar.[39]

Family permeates identity itself: Family (& other) relations emerge into the consciousness of children — i.e., all of us — only after they are formed. Adults (& children) may form relations typologically, meaning that consciousness is prior to the formation, but just as likely, the relations may be prior to, or simultaneous with consciousness formation. In short, relations determine (much of) who we are. The queer cuts across typology, refusing preexisting categories.[40] Hence the queer of this opening, as a verb: Queering, challenging norms, acting across categories: The queer queers family quite literally. So the queer is unfamiliar? This article must consider the unfamiliar as well, and not merely as an opposite. If psychoanalysis has constructed a familial unconscious like a language — has posited the familiar as its basis — perhaps the unfamiliar is unlike a language. (This will make it difficult to explore [41] via language, but I will try to do so via transversal.) What is identity without family, without the familiar? Is it identity of choice? Is the family of choice an alternative to hierarchy (or the nation-state) itself? What of the proliferation of sexual & gender identities? Is it due to fragmentation, shattering under force, or is it about becoming imperceptible, passing across & between boundaries & types? These questions have many answers (and non-answers — or, non-questions), and this article will trace some of them, queerly, perhaps while becoming (or remaining) imperceptible.

  1. Throughout the course of my reading on this & other topics I was studying in relation to it, of course I paid special attention to descriptions of things (or non-things) as familiar. It happened fairly often in these texts, meaning a few times on average, but almost always as a casual description. The latter observation confirmed, at least in my mind, the need for the present article.

  2. A lack of interrogation seemed particularly striking to me in writing with a psychoanalytic context, although it should be noted that there might be translation artifacts from German, where different roots could originally have been used. (French translations should not have an issue on this point.)

  3. Servants & retinues would have thus been characteristic features of the conquerors, even if the Latin speakers themselves did not consider these groups to be more "familia" than people in relations such as wife or child. (I'm unsure on this last point per [4].)

  4. I did consult the OED, among other dictionaries, but I am also out of my depth regarding the historical evolution of how people referred to others in — what we would now call — their families. So I must end here. (A hypothetical broader history of the family might well include a discussion of issues such as this.)

  5. I'm hedging this statement because there might be attempts at strict definition in e.g. legal contexts. (Perhaps a family is best considered a legal entity, although I'm probably not alone in finding that idea unsatisfying.)

  6. Families are not only objects of study for their historical development, but also loci for political manipulation in an attempt to influence their subsequent development — what is called, broadly, "social engineering."

  7. Indeed, it seems that no one can write a more "interesting" general history of family than Engels. I do not actually believe that to be the case in principle, hence my surprise, but it seems to be the case in practice. (I should probably also note Ariès & Duby's A History of Private Life among other worthwhile views.) Perhaps a more thorough study, as there are many aspects Engels did not consider in the nineteenth century, is being written.

  8. I decided to include Oxford's The Family in the bibliography here, although I cannot recommend it as interesting. However, it is representative. (And for the latter reason, I do not want to criticize the authors. I'm sure they wrote what they were asked to write for the history series.)

  9. Put another way, since I want to focus on emergent relations, not only can family relations be viewed as emergent, but feminism can be viewed as similarly emergent. These things are tangled, and whereas it is necessary to adopt a point of view — to make a cut, as I've described it in the past — in order to write a history, this particular relationship between family & feminism only obscures what I am hoping to observe. (One could certainly criticize me in turn for not being enthusiastic about liberal feminism, and readers should feel free to do so. Whereas I won't argue with liberal feminism being an improvement over non-feminist liberalism, I'm not looking to remain within the liberal paradigm.)

  10. Under strict feudal patriarchy, with primogeniture, younger sons often had few options. The list of involuntary relations could be much expanded, although I certainly do not intend to undermine the fact that women & especially children have had the fewest options.

  11. "Family of choice" contrasts with "family of origin." (I could not locate an origin for the term, although I admit that perhaps I did not look as hard as I could have.)

  12. Various gay & lesbian & otherwise queer people do have children, biological and/or adopted.

  13. Let me be totally cynical here, in a way some people won't appreciate: It's become easier to consolidate queer people to hierarchical power by having them marry than to consolidate that power via their exclusion.[14] Is that a good thing? Some might say that it is, but either way, "danger" is no longer to be found in gay marriage. (Enter [15].)

  14. No worries; we still have plenty of groups we can exclude for such purposes. Moreover, I suggest that the willingness to embrace married homosexuals within the social hierarchy is related to concern over racial demographics in USA. The desire to exclude other groups is (partly) driving the inclusion process. (We have seen this before with e.g. Irish or Italian immigrants.)

  15. Now we get homonormativity, wedded to heteronormativity, and for similar reasons.

  16. There are related examples: Banishment from society, excommunication, etc.

  17. The essence of "born that way" rhetoric is the impossibility of conforming. Is the queer alone in this impossibility, among family outcasts? Where is the defense of others who find it impossible to conform? Was the drug abuser born that way? (Although it has — eventually, after much pain — proven effective, I do not like "born that way" rhetoric. Homosexual sex as a casual choice is no less valid.)

  18. As with [12], of course many gay & lesbian & otherwise queer people do continue to have good relationships with their parents, siblings, etc.

  19. According to this logic, necessity yields an opportunity for choice. It might or might not turn out well. (And alternately, one might simply choose to prioritize some relations over others — whether or not they pertain to blood, origins, etc. — without any "necessity.")

  20. One's family need not be confined to the human species: Many people consider pets to be part of their family. (Pets conform to the "household" definition.)

  21. I first heard the term "family of origin" from a mix of queer & non-queer people who were drawn to Silicon Valley because of their career interests, although some also felt alienated from their families. Work & dedicated hobbies can be very powerful in this regard, in addition to or beyond sexual orientation.

  22. One can form communities, in effect families, around caring activities, for instance: Child care, elder care, disability care might also take place in hybrid biological & non-biological family structures. Many such structures emerge spontaneously from similarity of circumstance, and perhaps also because other family is distant (in some sense).

  23. The "child-free" movement is not confined to the queer community. Some people consider it an ecological choice, for instance.

  24. It is perhaps worth noting that some people are simply more social than others.

  25. Tangentially to Halberstam, or perhaps crucially, I would characterize eschewing evolutionary imperatives as underlying the queer art of failure.

  26. I say "age group," rather than generation, consciously here: The idea of a "generation" is already arguably heteronormative.

  27. I cannot resist mentioning the Knights of the Round Table: Consider the images of generation & children in those stories.

  28. Hence the idea that we've all already died. But until that already actually touches us....

  29. See Remède de Fortune, particularly Part B for a history on this point.

  30. The idea of the state as family is attributed to Confucius. It's emphasized in Christian theocracy too. (There is also "mother country" & other terms.)

  31. The remark is inspired by Badiou, although I probably distort his meaning beyond recognition.

  32. In other words, one might well have negative associations with "love," depending on one's experiences.

  33. See Remède de Fortune, assertion number one. (Happiness can easily become a form of control.)

  34. In other words, the (rhetorical) genetic imperative serves to justify one's individual traits, not simply as idiosyncrasies to be accepted, but as status markers to be revered. (Think of the inbred dynasties, like some of those of Ancient Egypt, at one extreme.[35])

  35. I suppose some such dynasties were more extreme than the European aristocracy.

  36. We are said to owe our parents for their service in raising us: This sustains heteronormative hierarchy. (It does not take much insight for a typical adolescent to burst out with "I didn't ask to be born!" as a refutation of this debt.) Reciprocity comes to mean continuing the ways of our parents, and by this logic, there is no escaping it: Social hierarchy is inevitable! (Such is openly proclaimed: Give up now.)

  37. That one is a separate, individual subject can become painfully clear upon a family member's death. (The financial system will see to this, among other disciplinary domains.)

  38. An affective economy, by its nature, is not so vertical, as it forms via circulation: Affects are difficult to stack or hoard. So we have some reason to believe that the familiar does not merely recapitulate family hierarchy, even as it alludes to it. The familiar can be a means to trace or interrogate, as we will see, or perhaps are seeing.

  39. The familiar is not an ethic; it is pre-ethical. (A similar comment could be made regarding any affect.)

  40. Homonormativity has become a way to, once again, form relations typologically. (Must one never interact with the world typologically? That would be difficult, given how our brains function, but it is something of an ideal, even if typological perception remains a practical norm. In other words, we can think about types as well as we think within types.)

  41. Whether or not home, as an image of the familiar, is a place, the unfamiliar certainly does not have a place. It thus might help us to conceive the familiar, in turn, as without location.

Chapter II — Familiar & Unfamiliar as Affects

....

  1. Basic caution should be taken against regarding affects as layered or set in opposition to each other.

  2. Is hybridity unstable, or does it lead to new regimes of feeling? We may be developing new regimes of feeling based on hybrid affects. Explanations, the translation of affect into consciousness, however, rely on previous modalities.

  3. Familiarity is thus a generator of affect theory, and not only an object of study within affect theory.

  4. Consistency itself becomes problematized: There is a question of generating consistency, but also of what is consistency & how it is consolidated or recognized.

  5. The familiar implies some thread of consistency, but this thread cannot be said to be prior to the affective response. A judgment of "consistent" comes after affect, as its consummation, and moreover, as a container or perhaps generator of form.

  6. This is a "becoming" to process, and it becomes familiar only as it emerges & is defined (whether via relation or external imposition).

  7. Definition via negation is potentially useful for something that is lost upon being grasped.[Laozi] "Not this!"[Shankara] Void or the act of emptying can itself be familiar — or unfamiliar.

  8. Recognition empties sensation by positing equivalences. References disappear (and can or must be actively traced [Latour]). Conditions of thought disappear with thought: Nothing is the same.

  9. So an opening for action cannot mark an equivalence. Equivalence is more of a closure.

  10. Does (formal) change require time, or is it space? What of the relation between time & space?

  11. "Philosophical thought is structurally nomadic."[Braidotti]

  12. "Tragic conflict is a crisis of space."[Barthes]

  13. Medieval opposition of spiritual & temporal was more about social relations than territory.

  14. Movement enacts the sensation of space, or disrupts the perception of space? Space as a container is a form of discipline, disrupted by mobility. If a container establishes a kind of familiarity, then displacement can lead to the unfamiliar. Retaining the concept of container during displacement is a grasp at the familiar: Do we look for the same or the different?

  15. The familiar implies a location, even if that location is disrupted. Where is the continuity, if not in space?

  16. Location is constituted via familiarity, out of undifferentiated space — even the concept of "space" forms via familiarization with sensation.

  17. As an action, to familiarize thus enacts a kind of legibility. However, while it brings some objects to recognition, it obscures others. To defamiliarize then, paradoxically, includes the potential to notice an object or relation already obscured.

  18. To familiarize is a process of constitution (and disappearance) generally.

  19. Time is then perceived in the separation from space, or through space. (Is the unfamiliar bound to time?)

  20. Movement can be extracted as a relation, as between time & space. If movement folds back on itself, the familiar might present as self-relation. If movement folds back on itself again & again, perhaps we have the swirl of turbulence, the unfamiliar. These differ in intensity.

  21. Conceptualization of affect happens within affect.[Ngai/Lear]

  22. This is due to the circulation of affect.

  23. Affect must be active, it must circulate, in order to affect.

  24. There is space within circulation: Whether it is some kind of hiatus or opening, or not, space might raise the familiar to attention. (Is the familiar a kind of freezing, or does it move?)

  25. Ends don't justify means: We can say that life is path-dependent, i.e. cuts through circulation, and that the way it travels affects what it is, even at the same location. (Irrationality can be described as such a path dependence.)

  26. Affect can be raised by distant memory, the haunting of unknown familiar.

  27. Movement-as-relation raises the observer-observed duality, which we might call (in this context) immanent-transcendent, or even personal-impersonal. The familiar as haunting might point to something outside experience, or perhaps to a time-relation. The unfamiliar indicates trans-personal movement: Somewhere we've never been may be something or someone we've never been. Time can collapse in such assessments.

  28. Immanence is habitual paving of small transcendences?[Latour] I cannot agree: Awareness is fluid relation. Gaps are immanent to immanence itself; they do not require paving. They may be paved, as a mode of existence: I would view the paving more as a departure from immanence than a requirement of immanence. The gap or hiatus becomes a way to jump from one line of immanence — from one orientation to sensation — to another. Then we ask: How is the gap perceived, from what perspective?

  29. A hiatus has its own perspective.

  30. So immanence requires mediation? That sounds absurd. One simply moves with the circulation of affect? Is it possible to move with the circulation of affect, or is it transverse to movement? Anarchic immanence can continue without our attention, particularly our attention to its conceptualization & familiarization. (Or its gaps.) Does consciousness of familiarity alter the familiar?

  31. The familiar changes continually as it is recalled.

  32. Immanence never requires mediation with respect to itself, of course. Such a thought raises the (big) Other.

  33. And we can say that consciousness of the unfamiliar — perhaps — begins the process of becoming familiar. (The qualification is important, because in no way do familiar & unfamiliar span the space of affect. There are many other possibilities.)

  34. If ideological space is frozen circulation, the goal of ideology is to expand that space to include everything, to brand all of sensation within its own locus of familiar. The unfamiliar can be collapsed under ideology: It is not an opening, or chaos, but rather one particular thing, the outside.

  35. We can say that ideology has no outside, equivalent to the reduction of the outside to a point, much like on the projective plane: Ideology is projection. Whether projection is distortion depends on one's orientation.

  36. Consciousness of sensation introduces another point of view, and so on, in a cascade.

  37. This is the sense in which the familiar is inside itself.

  38. We can naturally ask if a circulating form converges or diverges. Does it diffuse; might diffusion be the more apt model of diversity, despite the (word) origin in divergence?

  39. Dissonance may thus be both a kind of convergence, and a kind of divergence.

  40. Divergence is a temporal effect, a temporal (proto) affect.

  41. Object resistance indicates a directionality that a circulating form may never possess inherently. (Circulation need not be as simple as e.g. clockwise or counterclockwise.)

  42. So there may be tension in resistance or in acceptance. These may never align.

  43. Affect becomes a kind of progress in that it leads onward. (Even backward is onward in this sense.)

  44. Consistency can thus be generated internally, or opposed externally, as a kind of standard. Neither is inherently more stable, and neither necessarily feels more familiar.

  45. Modernity both prepared us for & resists complexity.

  46. Philosophy becomes a kind of froth, wafting off other disciplines: One can attempt to order the froth, or one can visit its diversity, its familiarities & unfamiliarities: These need not be resolved, collapsed onto a plane.

  47. Numbers (and mathematics as their incantation) take on a mystical quality such that enumeration itself yields a sense of equivalence, emptying content. Numbers are said to be more than familiar, but rather identical: This is how number becomes elevated, beyond an ideal, to a value. The higher we can count, the better we are, provided we can point to that number as owned or within ourselves: It's the ultimate idea of subject-as-container, subject quantified.

  48. Just as here, numbers, despite invoking a specific ordering, suggest interchangeability. Paradoxically, unnumbered, the order of these notes might seem more important. (It is not important, but not meaningless either.)

  49. With circulation — convergence, divergence, even froth — there can be a massive tangle, perhaps with no beginning or end. (We might have more awareness of our end than our beginning.) We make some sort of cut, adopt some perspective, in order to begin, but the tangle remains, and so do the consequences of the cut.

  50. The topic itself becomes more familiar or unfamiliar as the writing progresses — and writing is forced to progress, because it has an order. (Might it not have an order? I have attempted that myself, at times, but there is always some element of being forced into or out of time.)

  51. Familiarity generates more familiarity. Note the distance, the judgment already present (in the state-noun). The familiar circulates within affect — it leads to more than the familiar.

  52. Beginning where one is already is authentically arbitrary. The problem comes in declaring that beginning as more (or less) than it is.

  53. Representing something unrepresentable is the condition of possibility for representation.[Laclau]

  54. Easy communication may become a barrier to difficult communication.

  55. Differential mutual inclusion — a form of sympathy — replaces the law of the excluded middle [Massumi], in the absence of representational typology. Inclusion is the natural impetus of an affective economy. (So it is resisted by capitalism at all cost.)

  56. The familiar transcends affect by constituting it as such, while remaining an affect, internal to affect. In that sense, the unfamiliar is not transcendent, even if it gestures transversally: The unfamiliar is a potential immanent strand, just as the familiar is already — the already beyond/behind. (The "already" trope is thus "always" a gesture toward the familiar.)

  57. Affects do not stand in dialectical relation to each other, at least not within the domain of affect. (If they irrupt into consciousness, they can & often will be positioned schematically, making a dialectic relationship possible.) In particular, the familiar & unfamiliar do not pose dialectic opposites, or even opposites in any tangible sense, affectively. They are independently evoked — and quite often, neither is invoked, perhaps the principle point of clarification here — and do not conflict in the domain of circulation. Both might be evoked differentially & simultaneously: In other words, one might meet a niece for the first time, and perceive both familiarity & unfamiliarity. The latter already indicate a judgment, but as the familiar & unfamiliar, the affects can coexist nicely, without even resolving to traits.

  58. There is thus no "uncertainty" trigger in the affective domain, with regard to whether something is familiar or unfamiliar, or with regard to some other duality that might be forced onto sensation. In that case, there is simply no affective trigger — or a completely different one.

  59. The Christ ontology can be viewed as dialectic mediation between subject & object. It positions the familiar within the absolute. This is its major affective innovation.

  60. The familiar is, of its nature, open. It has none of the finality of a recognition event.

  61. The unfamiliar might evoke a closure, in the sense of a turning away.

  62. An affect becomes an opening, not necessarily a drive. (Do we go beyond the opening, or does something from the opening come toward us? Which is or isn't frightening? Any number of further affects could be raised.)

  63. Even as an opening, affect can quickly lead elsewhere. There is no necessity for perpetuation in that domain.

  64. So fragility enables familiarity as its basis: The familiar can quickly transform.

  65. Knowledge comes only at a cost. (Relativity is then a strength & a weakness.) We are transformed.

  66. God itself is unconscious.[Lacan]

  67. A sensitivity to (background) ambience.

  68. That affects stick to objects & interfaces can be an explanation for ghosts, the evocation of something that might not even be in memory: One's own memory need not be involved, due to the way that affect can pass between people unconsciously. The latter yields the uncanny.

  69. Remembering becomes a kind of unfolding, based on contrast, positive & negative signals. (Memory itself is a presence, perhaps hazy.)

  70. The theory of signatures traces some of these object relations or memories, but more than traces them.[Warburg/Agamben] A signature is mediated by conscious representation: Not necessarily fully conscious, but at least mediated. Signatures become a natural consequence of analogic systems, repressed today.

  71. To trace a system is, in some sense, to expose it.

  72. The familiar & unfamiliar remain basically specular, but in two different ways: The unfamiliar can pass into the familiar via attention. The familiar always includes some aspect of difference. They are never only themselves.

  73. These sorts of hauntings have long been recognized in déjà vu & jamais vu. Haunting itself is a play on familiarity.

  74. Emotions, as learned responses to affect, can be anticipated. When the emotion does not match the anticipation, we have another opening to the uncanny.

  75. Imaginative anticipation can become a kind of simulation, an attempt to foreclose perception itself: Everything is already familiar. Does not the cynic say this, always? There is a comfort in fulfilled expectation, even (maybe especially) if the result is otherwise bad.

  76. Perhaps the uncanny sticks more to objects because we expect objects to obey our will, including our emotional will. (Another person's resistance does not seem strange?)

  77. Familiarity yields to melancholy when it is held. In other words, as a flash, familiarity leads many places, but once held, once seen everywhere, it is stasis, lack of movement. As we hold the familiar, it holds us.

  78. The person as object — the love object — reflects a melancholy familiarity in the holding, i.e. the objectification. Memory crystallizes, and there is a fear of shattering. Familiarity without movement thus opens to fear.

  79. So a haunting always reflects a fear? No, this is untrue, because the uncanny or unfamiliar is always escaping. (Escape may be desired.)

  80. Affect amplifies (and can resonate to ideology).[Tomkins/Ngai] Affect not only amplifies: It can lead off elsewhere in a chaotic swirl. Ideology becomes another fixation, i.e. a frozen movement. Reterritorialization is freezing movement: You think you move, but you are actually right here (or there) again, always again.

  81. If affect is always prior to perception, then is meta-language always prior to language? (Of course, my language betrays me there. What is the term? In special education, we call it, at least part of this "meta," pragmatics.) Call it orientation.

  82. Consequently, we have a generalized "phoria" always prior to euphoria or dysphoria.[Ngai] Any meaningful resistance happens in this prior. Moreover, the "phoria" can be passed, without resolution, to others. (They may contextualize it for us, even unconsciously.)

  83. The familiar & unfamiliar cannot be identified with euphoria & dysphoria. Such an alignment requires an additional basis, even if there is a clear tendency. What is this basis? How is it accessed?

  84. To a Lacanian, such is the hegemony of the "object a" — source of desire, but not goal of desire.

  85. So what is the concept beyond self-other? Mood? (I've not generally liked the term, but it seems to be the best one here.) Mood is somehow prior to affect, then? Mood in the ambience.... (Orientation?)

  86. The question of the prior, i.e. time, becomes the question of background & foreground, i.e. space.

  87. We are always already situated. Except prior to being situated. But this prior is elsewhere.

  88. Thought is an encounter, and perception is an act.[Deleuze/Manning]

  89. The difference between before — "meta" — and now, whether of language or perception, is in memory. Memory becomes reflection, i.e. inversion: I am acting in this manner, or saying this thing, because I already had this stimulus or orientation. I remember it. Yet the orientation & the act are very different: The orientation forecloses the act only upon reflection.

  90. So do our choices emerge from our values, or do our values emerge from our choices? This dynamic is fundamental mediation, and it can certainly be foreclosed according to the norms of the liberal subject.

  91. The Axiom of Choice is thus one of the most important theoretical tenets of liberalism. And it is posited in mathematics, a supposedly culture-free discipline. (It's wonderfully fortuitous how well the different meanings of the word "discipline" fit here.)

  92. Movement only comes from movement; language from language, etc.[Spinoza/Manning] Gestures solicit gestures in a sequence of partial moves.[Rodríguez]

  93. Is partiality inherently mediative? Mediation can be a gesture, perhaps a familiar gesture, and we can stack gestures. Is mediation then relationality? Mediation is a limited relation in that mediation presupposes its objects. Partiality can then unmake object choice. So partiality is independent of mediation.

  94. Even the idea of "Greek thought" emerges as a relation, the relation between the modern mind and the ancient manuscripts. They become familiar via contemporary mediation, and once again insist on their object character.

  95. Familiarity can arise indirectly: We can hear a piece of music that was influenced by some other piece of music which in turn sounds familiar once we hear it subsequently. Such a chain of indirection need not be nearly so tidy to be perceived at an affective level.

  96. Quoting text can likewise change the meaning of text via changing its relations. We call this "out of context" when it's done in some ways — and how to circumscribe all those ways, since that assessment can vary with the reader? — but artistic when done in others. Such an approach can mingle truth & untruth closely.

  97. The familiar need not be perceived as familiar in order to have influence as familiar. Moreover, this influence can be chained in subterranean vectors, or spread as networks. Perception might even halt the influence, or at least modify it. (Music often explores such ideas in process.)

  98. Mental schemas can be, and are, applied to very different objects. These tend to be rather simple relations of the 1+1=2 variety, or for instance, the way we conceive individuals versus groups. Although such mental schemas are learned, they tend not to be consciously learned (or consciously examined, at least not fully), and they certainly do not need to be consciously recalled in order to be applied. They operate exactly on the level of the familiar: The familiar might even induce such schematic relations automatically.

  99. And let us not believe that 1+1=2 is simply a "true" relation: Its problems are embedded prior to its articulation. What is the 1? In other words, what is the object and how was it quantized? This is also, at least partly, learned. There is no general case, then, and hence no particular.

  100. Particularity is incredibly convenient. Singularity or individuality is rather less so.

  101. If relations form from the middle, there is still a tendency to legislate them from the edges or corners. The middle leaves open the possibility of relational change, whereas the edge looks for some kind of anchor: This is particularity.

  102. If edges or boundaries are to be moved, there are at least two ways of doing so: A changed boundary can mean changed relations. Or the boundary-based relation can be declared unchanged while the boundary itself becomes arbitrary. The latter, of course, is the expression of power: Find an edge, and insist on its applicability everywhere.

  103. Classical Enlightenment thought posits the negative — recoil, if you prefer — as the basis for movement. It builds a boundary. (Rational thought is for rationalizing.)

  104. We might observe that theory has been inherently critical or negative. (Iconoclasm, literally speaking, is a canonical example.) How can critique be positioned as positive?

  105. The negative has given us the specific form of the dual.

  106. Evil, as apotheosis of the negative, can be betrayal, simulation, or totalization.[Badiou/Laclau] The modern West has mostly chosen to totalize.

  107. The unfamiliar is not the negative. It is its own affect, not an absence, but rather a prompting of its own.

  108. The "interesting" must embed something of the unfamiliar. We can use time to beat the unfamiliar — and the interest — out of something, in a kind of capture. (We might also pursue the unfamiliar in other ways, letting it retain its own interest.)

  109. Time via repetition is then the basic mechanism converting the interesting into the boring, but that depends on our orientation... for instance, a move to capture versus a transversal motion: Think of bird hunting & bird watching. (Even the latter is usually a kind of capture, though.)

  110. So where is the reciprocity in interest? (This is another question pregnant with double meaning.) Do we necessarily link feeling and reproduction? (The rock desires to persist.) In what sense can reciprocity span generations temporally?

  111. The duality embedded in reciprocity is a reflection, that is an inversion, the negative. As with spiritual-temporal, soul-body, etc. there is an inherent tendency to privilege one side. (The duality is typically posited so as to justify a privilege: Reciprocity for the Incas meant, "You work for me, and in turn, I give you time to work for yourselves.")

  112. Reciprocity may become rhetoric of the past, literally or figuratively. (Which is which?)

  113. Negative affect becomes linked to tolerance — whether of art or life. The ambivalent is figured as negative within a dual or binary typology.

  114. Personal tolerance is typically grounded in a particular prejudice: We can tolerate these (types of) people, as long as we don't tolerate these (types). Tolerance then constitutes a familiarity forged from the unfamiliar, but without the latter's participation. Tolerance comes to underscore us-them.

  115. Familiarity with the Other is reductive. (This, as opposed to familiarizing....)

  116. Analogism exhibits a basic requirement for dualities (and in turn, hierarchies) to simplify & order the huge variety of relations & potential relations.

  117. Detachment comes into play when appraising affect which otherwise circulates.

  118. Play itself becomes a kind of analogy & abstraction, a transindividual transport affirming paradox.[Massumi]

  119. Play is thus both immersion & detachment: The familiar is reconfigured. Affect is reconfigured.

  120. Travel creates a literal, bodily hunger. Even familiar travel causes this reaction, as do e.g. new students at work. There is a duality at work in travel, here-there, mirrored in new-old. (This is the articulation between space & time that is constantly occurring via movement.) Bodily hunger can then be satisfied or not, and this becomes the apprehension of the unfamiliar. Moreover, hunger can be satisfied in a familiar way, or not.

  121. Travel & hunger & satisfaction do not constitute either familiar or unfamiliar, but provide a means of tracing.

  122. Can detachment become a kind of satisfaction? (This leads us back to tolerance.)

  123. We have rhetorical poles for metaphor-substitution & metonym-combination.[Laclau] Where are desire & detachment here? (One might as well ask about the object....)

  124. If familiarity (as opposed to the familiar) is reflexive, that is, finds the source of its desire in detachment, then the familiar can be viewed as a kind of tone.

  125. Tone represents a dialectic of objective & subjective feeling? What might make a feeling objective? Do objects feel?

  126. If "tone" is found in the Romantic tone poems, as a kind of reflexive attunement, it is found more powerfully in traditional Chinese music.

  127. For Latour, the "preposition" mode forms a kind of interpretive key. (The timeliness is notable here.) If tone is always already prior, it is not necessarily detected until later: It emerges in relation.

  128. The question of background & foreground is thus not actually determinable in advance. Ambience or tone may be the content.

  129. Moreover, what is perceived as the foreground — melody, line of argument, etc. — may be entirely derivative of something not so easily perceptible.

  130. In other words, there exists neither a time nor a place that guarantees detached appraisal. Attempts to establish such a space-time will already have limited any attempt at appraisal.

  131. A basic mode of the familiar is habit: Habit, however, is expressed in deed, rather than in affect. (Although deed can generate affect.) Habit can keep us near the familiar. Habit also suggests a lack of consciousness that keeps us near to circulation, but a bound circulation. Habit becomes a veil over tone, an uninterrupted circuit that somehow serves to interrupt — or perhaps I should say, short-circuit.

  132. Modes of thought or action — or existence — can themselves be habitual, or occasional, or unknown. If the first short-circuits, the latter two can house both the familiar & unfamiliar in varying degrees. Those degrees can be, partially, articulated by action itself, but need not be ordered or recognized.

  133. Habit reflects a kind of trust in the familiar. (Recycling thoughts & ideas, or perhaps recycling ecologically, reflects trust in the familiar?)

  134. If an act traces the familiar, then an activity mediates familiarity? (Such connections need not persist.)

  135. If the familiar is habitual, glossed over, then it is insignificant? This conclusion is also incorrect.

  136. Might we become alienated from our own habits? In other words, might the things closest to us suddenly — or not so suddenly — become unfamiliar? Perhaps many readers have had this experience. (Is it about a shift in tone or ambience?)

  137. So our acts are already situated (and habit is found only there).

  138. It is therefore a basic paradox that habit carries us outside of immanence. (And adults & children have very different conditions of habit, neurologically.)

  139. A habit might continue far beyond its own context. There is a double violence here: There is the violence against context, and the violent reaction to questioning habit.

  140. The familiar can lead to violence via this double move. The doubling installs duality, such that the only alternative becomes unfamiliar in a reductive way. Then it must be fought. (So yes, habitual binary thinking is violent.)

  141. Habit is living the past in the present. Perhaps, then, neither is familiar. (The habitual present is too typical, always already constructed.)

  142. Language is familiar, but not too familiar. (It includes enough familiar-habitual tension to evoke violence. So "official language" is both a source & reflection of violence. "Official" anything marks violence over the familiar.) There is always something that hasn't been said.

  143. Authenticity can be continued inauthentically (or ended authentically).

  144. If hierarchy is consistency, can the familiar & unfamiliar be fit into a consistent hierarchy of affects? In such a situation, for our culture, the familiar would certainly rank higher, but can we rank the other affects? (One might claim "happy" as the highest.)

  145. Familiarity is the trope of servitude, the habit of acquiring habits from others.[Bergson/Mbembe] (The familiar leading inside itself can be dangerous, like quicksand.)

  146. Preference changes when people are asked their intent: This is the mere-measurement effect.

  147. A desire for consistency leads to a desire to be consistent regarding what we are told our preferences are. (Experiments show that when people are deceived about their own preferences, they are likely to choose to be consistent with that deception subsequently. In other words, if I tell you that last time you selected option A, you are likely to change your current selection to option A, even if you chose option B last time too.)

  148. We are unfamiliar enough with ourselves for deceptions of this sort to operate — not only to operate, but to be systematically enacted.

  149. Numbers can be even more powerful than words in enforcing consistency, including phantom consistency.

  150. It is supposedly a paradox that people can be made to rank options A & B differently, relative to each other, by introducing a carefully constructed option C. But let us ask here: What is the context? We have changed the context in which A & B operate. (We might talk, once again, of foreground & background.) The familiar and/or unfamiliar might figure such a system along multiple axes.

  151. The familiar itself can be reconfigured via careful suggestion. (Or via non-careful suggestion.)

  152. We can also become invested in our choices, such that subsequent information will not change them. (This is a kind of habit.)

  153. Does chaos actually force a choice? (Dualities do tend to force choices.)

  154. Simply presenting something explicitly as a choice can change preference behavior.

  155. The distinction between "civilization" & wild spaces was correspondingly clear for e.g. the Romans.

  156. Territory becomes the, familiar, dual to sovereignty. An abstract — or chaotic or wild — part of the earth becomes a territory via the application of sovereignty, and then it was always already territory: It becomes the condition of politics.

  157. Sovereignty & territory coalesce out of relation. Usually territory is the more directly perceptible of the two, so it conditions the familiar within that duality. It is possible, however, for the familiarity condition to invert, according to what is perceptible.

  158. The notion of "civility" emerges from courtly life, where public & private life are not distinguished. There is a mingling of types in the imposition of types. (What is familiar or unfamiliar can also invert at the extremes.)

  159. Memory is tied to heightened affect (or we might say "emotion"). Familiarity then becomes both a condition of memory & a conditioner of memory.

  160. The unfamiliar can be quite heightened, as affect. It can condition a heightened sense of familiar, which we might otherwise conceive as mild.

  161. Supposedly, that heightened affect is tied to memory leads to more engagement with positivity, and promotes survival. Or at least that is the speculation of those who believe in causes. (The plural of cause is so poorly grasped under monotheism & its successors....)

  162. There is no sense in which memory is prior.

  163. What someone believes is fair, or even whether someone prioritizes fairness, is modified by affective tone.

  164. Perceptions, particularly affective perceptions, are modified by contrast. (A classic demonstration is to put one hand in a glass of cold water, the other hand in a glass of hot water, and then put the two hands together in a glass of warm water.) Contrast can be in the foreground, but it can also be in the background. And the background need not be the background.

  165. So contrast is formed partly by chance, or path dependence (i.e. irrationality).

  166. An interest in something, at least to the extent that it irrupts out of a more basic attraction or attachment that might not be perceived, relies on some sort of comparison: An undifferentiated (or undirected) sense of interest is nonsense. Interest always has an object.

  167. Affect likewise assures its own contour, even if it remains in the circulatory realm. This is the sense in which affect cannot be ordered relative to something else.

  168. Then "interest" arrives late to economic discourse.

  169. We "like" someone more when we observe them imitating someone else. Our sociability increases when we are imitated, even if we do not know we are imitated. This is, again, via the circulation of the familiar. Imitating becomes, perhaps paradoxically, a kind of control.

  170. What is the relation between simulation & imitation? Is it matter of respect or priority? (Which might be considered the greater crime varies with context.)

  171. In the world of the panopticon, are banks & dividends voyeuristic? The eye is shut away [Lacan], but remains interested: The invisible eye inevitably seeing.

  172. To what extent is the forensic gaze the postmodern (posthuman?) condition? (What with all those forensic crime dramas on TV....)

  173. Yearning for the death of ocularcentrism brings with it the death of the object of our gaze? (Or is this supposed to be recoil of the object from our gaze? But then the death of death....)

  174. The desire to know — epistemology as a form of affective attachment — penetrates sight: Somehow we rebel against the panopticon by becoming the panopticon? Everything is familiar: This is the cynicalizing & defamiliarizing of vision.

  175. Visual interpellation is primary: Race is overwhelmingly enforced visually. Perhaps even more strangely, gender is overwhelmingly enforced visually: Fucking the panopticon or the panopticon of fucking: Fucking is visual! (And now we have the internet to make sure.)

  176. And more generally, touch is visual. Hearing is visual, etc. This is the fate of sensation under ocularcentrism: It must be compared according to the panoptic standard. (So fucking, even in the dark, becomes an act of visual interpellation.)

  177. Painters paint as dancers. (What is familiar or unfamiliar in their movements, in their paintings?)

  178. Sensory modes meet in their limits: The extremes of relation are no longer their own relations. They become unfamiliar to themselves.

  179. If relations are generated from the middle, whether discursively or non-discursively, amodality becomes a different middle relation: Amodality thwarts hierarchy.

  180. Familiarity is not ocularcentric: The familiar arises from sensation more generally: The familiar aroma....

  181. Must the visual field be interpellated? We seem to have a compulsion there, where (always a place) the familiar must be brought to consciousness.

  182. My body sometimes feels unfamiliar to me. My head & thoughts sometimes feel unfamiliar to me. Everything might be unfamiliar... for a while.

  183. There are many bodyings.

  184. Bodyings need not point to a single & consistent object. Nor a single & consistent origin.

  185. The official body is always already a product of violence. (Representation, in general, is the mask of violence.)

  186. The face, faciality, is the focus of the familiar.[Deleuze/Guattari]

  187. As heard above, a focus or foreground requires some already existing relation, and may be a background in another context. The foreground may be familiar, but the background may be unfamiliar, or vice versa. (This is part of the uncanny.) And these form only after perception, which is only after affect: Sensation may have already shifted modes.

  188. So intuition is a form of creative bodying? Consciousness is a relation in/among the body(ies). Intuition opens to the conscious.

  189. Performativity includes more bodying than mere presence. Performativity is relationally multiple, a presenting: Thereness is more than there.

  190. Proteins store information in the body: Proteins form, or reflect, a kind of relation. (Butterflies can remember caterpillar memories after turning to a kind of protein goo in a cocoon.) Cultural repression becomes a kind of bodying relation: The familiar is pushed away, into the future body.

  191. Even in the most reductive biology & physics, how much of our body is actually our body? Ninety percent of the cells "in" our bodies are bacteria? As a simple relation: The human exists to transport bacteria? As a more complex relation: Where is the familiar, if not inside ourselves?

  192. The familiar in the performative is the performative.

  193. If aesthetic claims are indirect performatives, that is they display our feelings rather than objective qualities, they become self-justifying.[Austin/Ngai] In this sense, the aesthetic is by nature appearance. A self-justifying aesthetics leads into itself: By plunging into the familiar, it becomes unfamiliar. This is true of bodying as well.

  194. If movement is the gesture of identity, not only does identity become inherently temporal, but gesture itself relies on the familiar.

  195. We synchronize our bodies to musical beats, although most animals do not.[Rothenberg]

  196. Perhaps an identity gesture is only constituted via the unfamiliar — as refusal of the unfamiliar.

  197. Identity can circulate in different directions: Where is disinhibition? Identity becomes more than itself?

  198. Philosophy can be said to have established European imperial disinhibition with a critical step from Aristotle to Alexander.

  199. Perhaps disinhibition requires a striated space, so that one step can be seen already in relation to another. In a smooth space, there is no direction, so no constructing a path, and hence no disinhibition. Or maybe it is all disinhibition, without relation of order.

  200. If the other does not exceed oneself, one need not feel inhibited toward it: This is illusory confidence, but effective all the same for justifying violence.

  201. How does one combine consistency with disinhibition? The establishment of clear hierarchies leads to both. Perversely, these hierarchies also require perpetual change — or at least novelty: The familiar cannot become too familiar, or identity might begin to circulate differently.

  202. So there is the ever-present modern call to change one's life.[Sloterdijk] (In the postmodern, I suppose it is always already changed: We are all unfamiliar to ourselves.)

  203. Christ ontology as dialectic mediation posits familiarity — via the body — within the absolute: A single exceptional body can go beyond all relations & limits. (And so going beyond some limits makes one exceptional by type?)

  204. Thwarting the familiar was a proclamation of divinity for the moderns? To go beyond familiarity within divinity. Always going.

  205. What we'd like is for life itself to be the subject, not the object of practice.

  206. Can the familiar object ever be the familiar subject?

  207. [Barthes]

  208. Circulation may converge or diverge, but it may also do neither. It is nonetheless doing.

  209. The familiar can be traced across & via chains of reference, at least in theory.

  210. If making space is to be a mode of existence, the nature of this space comes into question: Is it ecological space? Where is the space, before during or after the making? Is it an emptying or a filling? (And is there a real difference in the extremes?) The making of space becomes the establishing of relations, the recognition of relations, the relationality of existence already, and the opening of possibility.

  211. Model-free & model-based choice systems reflect, to some degree, the immanent-transcendent duality. Is the choice based on something external that is thought to be predefined for the context? Or does the choice emerge somehow? Observer location & circumstance, as in physics, becomes a variable. And which system is the observer using? What is already familiar, what is unfamiliar, and what is an experimental result (to the observer)? The result must be in the middle, somewhere, to be a successful experiment.

  212. Analogical worlds are burdened by the weight of destiny.[Descola] We might call it, instead, the weight of typology — which becomes destiny.

  213. Yet, whenever there is to be an act, whether of articulation or recognition, there is a cut: The cut may start as the unfamiliar, but it becomes the familiar. It begins the cascade into typology.

  214. How or where is libidinal energy directed with respect to the familiar or unfamiliar? It may align in moments. It can shift just as quickly.

  215. Does the past become erotic? If so, is that an outcome of forgetting, i.e. of one's previous act becoming unfamiliar? Maybe it needs to be just the right amount of unfamiliar for its ambience.

  216. Forgetting can be active. Synthesis can be passive. The synthetic can be familiar and/or unfamiliar. (And the erotic can be synthetic.)

  217. Are there acts wholly within affect? This is a matter of style or fashion. For some, these are the acts that matter!

  218. Perhaps it is forgetting that is most free of representation. (But this quickly becomes a paradox.)

  219. We fear the oncoming bus before we know it is a bus. There is familiarity to the fear. There is familiarity in every perception recognized as perception. It is always already mediated by affect. (And if we don't fear the bus?)

  220. We believe we make decisions in different orders than we make decisions. Then we justify the affect via the settled outcome.

  221. So we access familiar as relation via the middle, afterward: This text always comes after! (After what?)

  222. Reproduction itself (pace Latour) thus has no feel. Continuity cannot be maintained by consciousness.

  223. The familiar is always in question. Its reproduction is always in question.

  224. When presented with objects that manifest a similarity, we might feel an obligation to make a choice. Such choices occur in series, and the order affects the outcome. Affective response becomes a kind of ordering. There are too many choices, too many sensations, too many possible perceptions, and so we are guided by affect to prioritize. However, choices can be presented in such a way as to manipulate affect. (Art involves the manipulation of affect.)

  225. I find myself making musical choices that need not have been made. Choice itself is seductive. Choice also has consequences, and cannot really be unmade: We can only approximate the alternative, no matter how arbitrary we know the choice to have been.

  226. Music creates expectation, both internal & external to itself: Such expectation can point toward the familiar or unfamiliar or elsewhere in the domain of affect. Such expectation can also be anchored outside of affect, for instance in the canons of style (fossilized affect, or orientation).

  227. Distinguishing sensory modes is already a kind of aesthetic crossing. A sensory mode is already a choice, even if we leave the choices to others a priori.

  228. Architecture has so often been a container, a privileged container, whether of familial or official space. The official takes on a kind of familiar unfamiliar in typical public architecture. (The familial might indicate its goals via container as well.)

  229. The queer family is an open system: Relations can form in a variety of ways. (Maybe it needs its own architecture.)

  230. The measurement fetish arises because one's contribution to production is no longer measurable. Abstraction is posited as the ground of the everyday, unfamiliar familiar. (Abstraction is needed in order to rationalize.)

  231. Affect is too direct, too familiar. So we might not notice.

  232. In a linear text, the indefinite article leads forward while the definite article leads backward.[Moretti] (Of course, such a duality is far too simple, far too easy to exploit.)

  233. So when we ask if the unfamiliar is askew somehow, or in the same layers of affect with the familiar, do we want it to be askew? Do we want it to be in a familiar place?

  234. Binding the unfamiliar to a place is disinhibiting: We can safely poke it.

  235. The prior remains a mystery — by which I mean, it continues to be sought. (Would asking why be too subtle?)

  236. The form of the general is always lurking to claim ownership of the familiar affect. This is a different eternal return (and certainly not the eternal return of difference).

  237. The positivity of thought is obvious: Thoughts only lead to more thoughts. So foreclosure is not a thought — and not an inversion, only an absence, but not a vacant absence, rather a tightening, a squeezing out. (This is certainly not subtle.)

  238. An absence can be familiar and/or unfamiliar. Space can be familiar and/or unfamiliar.

  239. Who is it, really, that makes space? (The real is already full!)

  240. Laughing is detachment, transcendence? (But bodily, somehow.) What is funnier, the familiar or the unfamiliar? What is funnier, space or foreclosure?

  241. Debasement is funny? What is its aesthetic? Is debasement too familiar? At least it isn't us, so there is relief.

  242. Baring the relations of affect is humiliating? Is it funny? Is it disinhibiting? Being stripped bare.

  243. Reciprocity posits the familiar, insists on the familiar. If obligation is atomized, made to be nothing but form, is the familiar atomized in turn? As we have tasted, an affect will retain its contours, although it might become spectral.

  244. There must be a joke about this.

  245. Actions trace space or territory, whether these consist of boundaries or openings. (The traces can be echoes or virtual opportunities.)

  246. The familiar can establish territory via repetition or refrain. (A territory is located via sovereignty, and a refrain is the most basic demonstration of sovereignty.)

  247. If time is supposed to mark progress, then the unfamiliar can also figure its divergences.

  248. Representation might become more or less familiar or unfamiliar. But it cannot touch itself.

  249. An opening might be unconscious, might seem passive, but be actively engaged all the same.

  250. Objects are already hauntings, refrains of past familiarity.

  251. Relations are specific, not arising from generality. The familiar & unfamiliar are not general.

  252. The familiar figures what we can articulate, perhaps via contrast.

  253. Whereas habits are consistent, consistency need not be habitual. Plateaus of intensity enact a kind of consistency that might be familiar or unfamiliar. Life itself can defamiliarize consistently, depending on orientation.

  254. Do we control memory or vice versa? (If affect is prior....)

  255. We get the impression that sensation itself is orderly, but we have forgotten the experience & learning that forged an order for sensation. Without this early/implicit learning, particularly without a sense of dividing sense modes, dividing reality into objects, into subjects, sensation itself would appear as chaos. (Or as something very different, if we learned to order it differently.) This (cultural) learning also includes learning to ignore some sensations, those that don't fit, or that we have learned are irrelevant, etc. Our basic senses are far more conditioned by previous events than we can possibly perceive. In other words, sensation itself can be familiar or unfamiliar, and either might be subconsciously ignored — the former as background, the latter as incongruous.

  256. Perception is a relation from the middle.

  257. So we cannot rely on our senses to reliably perceive familiar & unfamiliar, because they are always already implicated. (Note that I am distinguishing between sensation & perception in this remark.)

  258. That the familiar & unfamiliar interact with our bodies in various ways, at various angles, via various interfaces, indicates the extent to which these affects are trans-personal. (Not everything in our bodies is even us, depending on what we mean by any of those terms.)

  259. Attitude toward the self-other duality conditions our actions toward the other: This attitude or orientation can be traced historically & culturally, perhaps with some difficulty at times: An imperial culture produces imperial selves.

  260. The familiar cannot actually be located. It might be situated, contingently. (The unfamiliar escapes situation.)

  261. The familiar eschews the event, acts transverse to the event. It includes no finality, only convergence & divergence.

  262. The cut is an event; representation is an event. These may also diverge: The cut is a beginning, not an ending.

  263. The unconscious seems more familiar when it is (conceived to be) passive. This is the familiar as container, leading inside itself again.

  264. There is no general form of the familiar or the unfamiliar. They are always already situated. (And when we attempt to situate them in turn, we recover the prior situation at most partially.)

  265. We can never really detach in order to appraise. Attempts at detachment yield other situations.

  266. The contours of the subject seem so familiar — as if they are reality.

Chapter III — Irruptions of the Familiar & the Unfamiliar

Even while affecting us, familiar & unfamiliar need not be consciously perceived.[1] However, whether due to their own urgency, or other factors [2], they may be pressed upon our attention.[3]

The term "familiar," as pertaining to one's family or household [5], goes back to the later fourteenth century in English, but the generalized sense of being very friendly or intimate goes back a few decades farther, reflecting more flexible relations.[6] Dating only to the end of the sixteenth century in English, "unfamiliar" indicates newness, and later harshness. It is obviously conceived as an opposite, although even at its origin, the concept of newness brings something more. The familiar is something you think you know already [7], whereas the unfamiliar might elicit curiosity.

The idea of opposition remains dangerous: As noted in Chapter II, as affects, familiar & unfamiliar are basically independent: Both or neither might be triggered by a situation. So there is no sense of either/or here [8], although we can conceive of the familiar & the unfamiliar as poles that generate a space. Once we're conscious of familiar and/or unfamiliar in a situation, they might provide a framework for interaction.[9] Even if these affects dominate, something might be familiar or unfamiliar in different ways. It might be familiar or unfamiliar to different people. Whether it is familiar or unfamiliar might change with time [10], even within a situation.

As long as I'm discussing opposition, let me ask a typical binary question: Is familiarity good or bad? (We might characterize this question as typical of Romantic dualism, where it would then be problematized.[11]) Opting strictly for the familiar, or for the unfamiliar [12], can easily become untenable: Although some people might withdraw from new experience, perhaps permanently, such would be impossible for an infant, and thus for a lifetime.[13] Focusing on any (dual) framework can yield inattention to other motions & relations — these may disappear, or be reterritorialized upon the dominant framework. Familiarity is especially dangerous in this regard, because its own motion is to pull (us) inside itself.[14] It also figures observer theory, and so I should note the similarity — similarity only [15] — between immanent-transcendent & familiar-unfamiliar. (We can then problematize the familiar with techniques similar to those used to problematize immanence, such as phenomenology.)

The familiar and the unfamiliar emerge or irrupt [16]: This is the basic motion or gesture to be explored here. I will attempt to explore this gesture in its multiplicity via a series of more specific interrelated gestures.[18] Human subjectivity will figure prominently in the way these gestures are explored, and indeed the first will concern "the self" explicitly, but the gestures should not be seen as originating in the subject: They are trans-subjective, and the discussion will trace the locus of relation uncovered or initiated by a gesture. In that sense, they are not themes, because their extraction can already serve as a barrier to understanding.[19,20] However, hopefully, these gestures will orient us toward a discussion of the ways the familiar & the unfamiliar figure our perceptions, which in turn figure the familiar & the unfamiliar. As the previous sentence suggests, although many of these gestures have figured significant [21] discussions for centuries, this is not a necessary or closed selection: It is circular & arbitrary [22], and that arbitrariness extends to the way subject & object are oriented in the title phrases. (This is one way to explore figuration while accommodating differences in subject & object position.[23]) So in each case, I will ask about subject & object relations, how the familiar and/or the unfamiliar might generate or be mediated by the situation, and by extension, their relation to emotional figuration. These gestures do not feature dominant emotions, but they do facilitate perspectives on emotions irrupting from (and being contextualized by [24]) the affective frame. Those emotions will be explored somewhat.[25]

Ten different gestures are titled, and will be treated separately, even though they are not really separate. I suggest reading them in order, although the order will matter more in some instances (or ways) than in others: Some are conceived more in parallel (versus serial), and might even be written in parallel [26], but I opted against numbering them with e.g. 2a, etc.[27] This Chapter will never be summarized (or consummated, somehow) — or rather, the forgoing is as close to a summary as will occur.[28] It will simply end after the ten gestures are explored, to the extent that they are explored, and then we will move to Chapter IV. This is an open-ended topic.[29]

  1. We like to believe that we are aware of everything that affects us, but many experiments, not to mention classic psychoanalysis, demonstrate that we are not.

  2. We might examine the familiarity or unfamiliarity of a given situation or sensation only after something else causes it to demand conscious attention: The rush of the bus speeding toward us in the street demands our attention with its power, but we will eventually be conscious of its familiarity. Such dynamics need not be so urgent as the canonical speeding bus: A casual interaction might prompt us only later to wonder if we knew that person (who we have already perceived as a person).

  3. For the purposes of this Chapter, I have called such an emergence into our conscious attention an "irruption." I might have used the more common spelling "eruption," but wanted to defamiliarize the notion somewhat. In particular, I wanted to soften the vertical imagery of the volcano, to emphasize more "horizontal" motion. Such terms have a history, per the OED, regarding incursions of peoples, etc. Perhaps that is the better image, particularly with its multiplicity.[4]

  4. Singular & plural can be issues when it comes to discussing the topic of familiar & unfamiliar, as well as other affects, and so I'd like to posit an indeterminate number — an indeterminate number for sensation, perception, affect. (At some point, one might ask "One or many wolves?")

  5. Here I quote the OED directly, and later in the paragraph, indirectly.

  6. We can wonder whether the concept of family — technically, as blood or affinal relation — is more or less basic than the nature of how one interacts. Etymologically, we might immediately say the former, but do recall from the Openings that the concept of "family" from which familiar emerged was not so neatly defined. Even etymologically, blood-affine seems to be a more recent orientation: It becomes a reason for an (already existing) interaction style.

  7. This is my own interjection, prefiguring some of the concerns of the present Chapter.

  8. A strict binary division of space into familiar & unfamiliar (or any such duality) creates both an absolute division between the two, as well as an absolute conceptual fusion, i.e. that one cannot be thought without the other. I want to suggest & embrace something other than this outcome, even though the simple construction of "un" already invokes a binary opposition.

  9. Whether the familiar & the unfamiliar provide a good framework for interaction is another question entirely. They very well might not: They might impede the understanding of other critical factors.

  10. Familiarity & unfamiliarity are bound more closely to time than I might like, although I will not spend a great deal of effort attempting to unbind them. It's usually more pleasing to think that something unfamiliar might become familiar with time, but the opposite can occur as well, whether through an active process of defamiliarization or simple forgetting (which we might associate e.g. with senility).

  11. It would be too bold for me to claim that familiar-unfamiliar is the basic Romantic tension. However, this tension is (always?) productive in that setting.

  12. Notice how easy it becomes to ignore the unfamiliar when speaking of the familiar. (The familiar draws us inside itself.)

  13. Withdrawal from new experience is often characterized as pathological, at least if it dominates one's life. (Likewise the constant quest for the new, as in thrill seeking.)

  14. Any "solution" based on familiarity is thus suspect, without considering other frames. (In other words, we might note the general trend for people — or at least subjects constituted in particular ways — to believe that whatever they know is the frame of the world.) We can generalize this basic notion to other affective stances, obviously, such as anger, lust, etc.

  15. I might note Balibar's comment — in the context of Locke & the subject — that untranslatability is a privileged indicator of concept. (It's very easy to step too far into the quagmire of analogy.)

  16. The irruption is out of chaos: These affective stances generate a space, as already noted. They provide a means of ordering sensation.[17] Although affective circulation affects us (to be redundant), there is no frame (or "there," to invoke Stein) there.

  17. In a sense, the familiar is perception itself. We must have some familiarity with sensation in order to form it into perception. Otherwise it remains chaos.

  18. I call the figures here "gestures" rather than e.g. scenes or situations. The latter suggest more of a finished product to me. Instead, I want to explore familiarity in the irruption itself, not after it has hardened into a frame. Whether "gesture" is the best word for this motion is open for debate, but it's what I'm using.

  19. I also want to interrogate what we are told about these gestures: There is a basic tendency, at least in the context of the liberal subject, to place a motion-based — gestural — relation into static form. (In some sense, this is the nature of words, which we will explore via an upcoming gesture.)

  20. I am surely giving the notion of "theme" too much credit with this remark.

  21. I mean this literally: There is no necessity, but only contingency.

  22. Many gestures go in, and a few come out. (This is the "cut" of narrative exposition, once again.)

  23. These gestures might be characterized as fragments or hybrids. Note that, grammatically, they are not sentences: Whereas they are oriented around a 1-2-3 sense of relation, they do not figure such relations consistently (in parallel), and the 1-2-3 form itself is shifted in two cases. (Additional variety in this regard would have been possible, perhaps desirable, but I am thinking that the current level of complexity is sufficient for the exposition.)

  24. Although I am trying to reinject this reciprocal motion, noting it in every instance faces practical constraints, and so the reader should consider what motions correspond to any mentioned. (See also [12].)

  25. An exhaustive exploration of emotional response is beyond the scope of the present article, although hopefully I will sketch or indicate some ways that further exploration could proceed from here.

  26. Writing a couple of these together violates my usual practice (of writing) to some degree, but I feel a need to do so in this case, on account of my weekly workflow (and its practical constraints). Otherwise this project would linger too long for my taste.

  27. Such an ordering or grouping would have included arbitrary elements as well. In other words, although this list of ten gestures includes some (quantity of) parallelism, the parallel could be grouped in more than one way.

  28. Although this is not the reason, the "improper" order of summary here can be viewed in relation to our "improper" decision order: Affective reflex response, followed by rationalization (and with it, framework conception, etc.). So, first an (indeterminate) irruption, and then I ask what it might be, and describe a few possibilities....

  29. I want to continue to enact the openness of the topic, in fact, in order to fight an impetus for (fore)closure.

Perceiving self

This opening gesture immediately departs from 1-2-3 (subject, relation, object) form, suggesting reflexivity. It would be a mistake, however, to collapse the gesture into the singular "perceiving oneself." Rather, an implicit "the" can be placed either first or second, yielding both different views and different grammatical forms. The critical point is not about grammar, but that this gesture — "perceiving self" — is not unified: It has different facets that do not generally coincide. The resulting unsimultaneousness [1] marks a hiatus that in turn colors the other gestures.[2] There is an opening to perception in that the self is never really closed [3], and so this gesture is ongoing.[4]

What the self is or isn't is an open question: It has been treated in various ways over the centuries & millennia.[5] In the postmodern era, we might be tempted to treat it synonymously with the physical body.[7] Whereas such a treatment immediately deflates one of the most pernicious pillars of Western dualism [8], if imposed dogmatically, it can only interfere with an interrogation of familiarity. Put differently, although I will start from self-as-body, notions of familiarity are strongly conditioned already [9], and we need to pursue them through their various layers, rather than seek (or impose) some final clarity.[10] That said, I will continue: If we view the self as the body as a container, we can talk of its interface or shell, and we can talk of inside & outside. It is probably preferable to talk of multiple interfaces, given the multiple dimensions by which the body can affect & be affected.[11,12] We can begin our interrogation there: Where are the familiar & unfamiliar with respect to this diagram? Hopefully the question seems at least somewhat absurd, but nevertheless, this is our question.

Naïvely, if the shell of the body marks a boundary, we must be more familiar with what is inside than what is outside. (I sense some sort of "proof by contradiction" lurking here, but that is not the point.[13]) However, we might become familiar with things outside the body, at least as objects. (We are familiar with the idea that we cannot be directly familiar with other thoughts, by contrast.[14]) Moreover, "inside" the body, we are unfamiliar (by definition) with the subconscious, as well as (at least in some significant sense [15]) the many microorganisms that form part of our bodily system-assemblages. Whereas we have difficulty locating the former physically [18], the latter more directly problematize a physical inside-outside conception. We might then conclude that where we perceive the self, where it is most familiar, is actually at its interfaces. (Deep in the center of the body, so to speak, we return to the unfamiliar.[20]) Such a conclusion can be reframed as prioritizing relation: The familiar is worked through [21] via relation (and the unfamiliar is "unworked" via unrelation [22]). And when it comes to the self, relation is mediated by perception: This is the circular motion of the present gesture.[23]

If we consider perception to be a kind of reflection [24], then what of perceiving our (own? [25]) bodies? As anticipated above, although we can feel some things inside our bodies (e.g. arthritis, indigestion [26]), our senses mostly function at the interface: We can see or hear or touch (or taste or smell...) our bodies, but we do so from or via the outside.[27,28] Mostly our perceptions of our bodies are familiar, although something unfamiliar can be that much more striking.[29] There is an expectation of familiarity, although that expectation & corresponding familiarity were only developed with time: As infants, or (less so) as adolescents, or perhaps after some trauma, that familiarity is not already there.[31] I want to linger on this dynamic for a moment. Our idea of what constitutes a body per se [32], our familiarity with bodies, forms together with familiarity with our own body [33]: In this sense, there is no "outside" to our perception, no absolute reference for what a body is.[34] There is, in fact, no "naked body" — it is already constituted by signs [35] by the time we (can) perceive it. (If we work at this, much like other concepts of self, we can begin to wonder if we have a body at all.[36]) Familiarity can fade into unfamiliarity under a new regime of signs.[37] Moreover, the shape of the body varies, as different interfaces become more prominent: We might cultivate such differences intentionally [38], or they might be cultivated externally (knowingly or not [39]). We might want to think of the body as folded, with some folds open to sensing (whether by or of) and some not, and how an enfolding or refolding both captures & expresses a movement.[40,41] The bodily familiar & unfamiliar need never become static — the body is never static, not even in death.[42]

I promised an inquiry into subject-object relation [43] via these gestures, and so now we must turn to the classic subject.[44] (Here I mean the subject in the sense of self, not grammatically, although the two are intimately connected.[46]) The subject is always already the perceiving subject [47], and perception itself is a matter of familiarity: Simply put, the difference [48] between sensation & perception is familiarity.[49] Moreover, we might observe that a sense of the familiar defines the self: Whereas there are ways the self is unfamiliar, as discussed above, it is affective familiarity [50] that drives identity formation. That we might lose the thread of familiarity with ourselves seems unthinkable.[51] So the familiar figures both perception & the self — it permeates this gesture [52,53], although the unfamiliar is never entirely absent.[54] That subject & object are (at least loosely [55]) united in this gesture blunts the self-other duality.[57] It also problematizes ideas on representation when we cannot represent ourselves.[58] We encounter a self that is loosely defined, and perceived multiply, including by the self.[59] It is generated culturally by e.g. laws & other technology [60], which might be very familiar, or (suddenly?) inject some radical unfamiliarity [61], invoking a feedback loop [62] between the self as perceiver & the self as perceived. (This, of course, involves the other.[63])

Is the self generated or mediated? (I just wrote that it is generated.) We might ask the same of the body: Perhaps this is sophistry, but although it might be tempting to insist that the body really exists, and therefore can at most be mediated [64], the body is literally generated, i.e. arises from procreation. So... both processes occur: How are the familiar & unfamiliar generated or mediated in relation to the self?[66] If we take the view that there is no perception without the self [67], or at least no sensation [69], then affects like familiar & unfamiliar are generated there, but they are also mediated culturally according to concepts of the self.[70] We might observe that e.g. (Western) phenomenology demands a particular kind of subject [71]: This, in turn, colors affect and perception. Personal territory becomes the scene of familiarity, and personal territory is constructed in a particular way.[73,74] This scene or situation becomes the ground of familiarity via mediation (with the other), and then the unfamiliar can be received in a variety of affective tones: Curiosity, anger, confusion, etc. The scene must accommodate some opening to the unfamiliar, or it will collapse.[75,76] I've staged this scene in more or less temporal language, and there remain two basic temporal questions to ask: How is the individual self (and with it, familiar & unfamiliar) mediated by or through time? How has this process changed historically? The first question is somewhat artificial, in that it already posits "individual" selves [77], but I believe it's the sort of question people have, and this brings us to memory: Memory always already posits time, even if an event reconfigures memory [78]: Familiar & unfamiliar are mediated temporally via memory [50], meaning that the temporality is at least somewhat illusory. We are actually perceiving selves only in the moment, even if that moment comes with memory.[79] The latter question leans more toward generation, and would be fascinating to trace in more detail, if we could.[80,81] (So much for opening this dubious generation-mediation duality.[82])

I already mentioned some emotions in the previous paragraph, in relation to the unfamiliar & personal territory. Is there a dominant emotion to the present gesture, or even especially relevant ones? No, the gesture encompasses all emotions.[83] Returning to a more specific orientation on the body, I can mention recoil [84] & uneasiness [85] as bodily reactions to trans-self identification. This remains a pregnant topic.[87] So what constitutes the "irruption" here? Simply put, the self (as irruption) is figured by familiarity, as I hope I've described: Moreover, our process of constructing a sense of self does not start with a self, but rather with sensation, out of which objects (as well as perception of them), including the self, emerge or irrupt.[89] This irruption, in turn, figures the others [90] — it opens onto the others as a base.[91] Now that I've gone through this rather convoluted discussion, hopefully the remaining gestures can be interrogated in a more straightforward way.[92]

  1. I do not want to say "lack" here, as if simultaneity is a norm.

  2. So it seems necessary to start with the present gesture, although the topic is (unfortunately) complicated by many layers of previous thought.

  3. Lacan used a remark on the Möbius strip-like geometry of the human embryonic sheath, in order to illustrate that the self (or body) never has had a clear inside & outside. (Fascination with this illustration is a relic of Haeckel's "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" maxim, in my opinion, so it should not be taken too far.)

  4. One might say that this gesture is productive.

  5. I treat "the self" myself in Hierarchy as rupture, Part IV. I will try not to repeat the same points here, although what I wrote there mostly applies. (This is also where I make some remarks about the choice of the term "self" over other popular, similar terms.) This is a different inquiry.[6]

  6. One might reasonably ask how I can treat something as basic as "the self" differently. There is nothing special to explain about that, as I have never treated the self as uniform or consistent. How it is approached affects how it responds, whether in discussions such as this, or in life events.

  7. Such an equation, in this context, immediately raises some of the questions of Is postmodernism racist?. I will not attempt to sketch senses of self in other cultures, at least not in any systematic way. One can, however, imagine such an "encyclopedia," and perhaps one should be prepared.

  8. We can view the "cogito" itself as an invocation of self-othering. That is, it invokes an internal division that can never be closed via perception, since perception is framed via subject-object.

  9. It is tempting to write "culturally" instead of "already" here as well, although there is more happening. Culture already marks a kind of division that we might not want to embrace.

  10. The image of nirvana is not unintended.

  11. I do not want to name, specifically, discrete sense modalities, although that is one issue. (Amodal sensation is significant.) We can also parse these interfaces in multiple registers or dimensions: Economic, political, sexual; conductive, radiative; digestive, epistemic; pores, respiratory, etc. etc.

  12. Some might say it makes sense to conceive of all interfaces collectively as a single shell. Perhaps it does at some moments (including within liberal subjectivity & "privacy" conceptions).

  13. Proof by contradiction is also inherently bourgeois. (I should contextualize that remark: It is bourgeois within the setting of Western liberalism.)

  14. Such a contrast between "our" thoughts & others' is, of course, traditional in my culture. (We do believe that we can often learn others' thoughts, if imperfectly, typically via language.)

  15. It could be argued that we are also familiar, in some sense, with the bacteria in our bodies, because we know of them by what they do. However, given that the quantity of bacteria (both in species, and raw number) in the body has been explored only in the past decade or so — as much as 90% of the cells in our bodies, according to some internet reports [16] — such an interpretation seems, at best, idiosyncratic.[17]

  16. I will point out explicitly that I am not going to name these reports, because I do not believe they are important on a specific basis. They are "in the news," which is my point for the present purposes. If you are reading this at another time, who knows what the consensus will be. It all seems very fluid at the moment.

  17. From a DNA-centric perspective, and there is plenty of reason to wonder just how valuable the currently (formerly?) trendy DNA-centric perspective really is, bacteria are not a part of us (our bodies). This is an arena where the concept of machinic assemblages — and bacteria seem like simple machines, don't they? — seems rather anticipatory.

  18. Brain imaging has sought a home for "the unconscious," although it seems that no clear conclusion has emerged from that domain. I should also point out that there is no consistent physical sense of the unconscious that emerges in our own unmediated (mental) sensations. In that sense [19], it has no location.

  19. If we are to interrogate the familiar & the unfamiliar, we must be willing to consider all senses (although there are, of course, practical constraints to such an ambition).

  20. There is no self at the center of the self, one might say. Or maybe it's time for a clichéed analogy about the ocean and underwater exploring. Or I could talk about the signifying lack of Hegelian psychoanalysis.... (And this latter is the referent of the "here" in [1], which in my wildest dreams, was already obvious.)

  21. We will explore "work" in an upcoming gesture.

  22. Or non-relation, if we prefer a better pedigree for our terms.

  23. I may have left out a lot here, but this is fairly well-worn ground. I hope the motion of the gesture leaves some trace of clarity.

  24. The "reflection" notion emphasizes surfaces or interfaces. Other than marking a double, it is not important here.

  25. I refer to Balibar-Locke, and the self as a (prototype of) possession. (I also cannot resist a remark on the cultural differences in "possessing" another: Perhaps e.g. voodoo is more honest.)

  26. Are there distinct pleasant feelings that come from within the body? Orgasm is an example, and we'll interrogate it further with the next gesture. Particularly with something like indigestion, marking a pathology, we can ask if such a perception actually signifies another interface: It is something not of the body causing a (unpleasant) sensation. (We feel stoppages in flows.) As an auto-immune disease, (rheumatoid) arthritis complicates this notion. In any case, we can consider interfaces appearing "within" our body, separating it from itself.

  27. We can sometimes hear inside our bodies without the sounds passing through the outside air, but simultaneous to hearing what's outside.

  28. Note that it is by breaking sensation into modes that I demonstrate bodily sensation from the outside. Continuing the question of [26], it's fair to ask if there is trickery in such a division into modes: What is amodal sensation of the body (by the body)? More to the point here, is it familiar or unfamiliar? Certainly the notion of amodal sensation is unfamiliar (to many of us, anyway), but is the sensation itself?

  29. Suddenly being (or becoming [30]) alien (unfamiliar) to oneself is a standard trope of horror genres, for instance. However, there is also something to be said for working to defamiliarize oneself: This is an aspect of psychotherapy, for example, seeing oneself differently.

  30. It seems worth asking whether suddenly being different, or a process of becoming different, is more horrifying. (Both occur in the genre.) Perhaps this question yields another view on being-becoming.

  31. There are entire areas of practice for helping infants, adolescents, trauma patients, etc. learn their bodies. (We tend to ignore the systems of help that e.g. infants have, but some might need more active intervention.)

  32. I am discussing the human body, but this statement can be taken more generally, referring to objects, etc.

  33. Barring some sort of exceptional pathology, such as amnesia....

  34. We do compare ourselves to others, such as our parents, but those comparisons can begin only after we acquire some sense of bodies.

  35. I have borrowed this idea from Lazzarato: Not only is there no absolute body — i.e., in a pristine, pre-perceived state — but the "naked" body is covered in cultural signs (meanings).

  36. In other words, we can defamiliarize the body: We can put into question what had seemed known.

  37. I believe we still greatly underestimate the extent to which co-constitution of perception & self affects our sense of both. There is a feedback loop at work here, meaning a highly nonlinear process. It could, with different boundary conditions — i.e. cultural context — lead to vastly different places, much like the weather and the proverbial butterfly's wings. Continuity & stability with regard to sense of self are enforced external to ourselves, albeit as a countermovement of the same feedback loop. We tend to posit a general alignment there, with no real evidence.

  38. Cultivating different bodily interfaces can be called training, whether of the senses, machinic assemblages, etc. Musicians do it, athletes do it, psychoanalysts do it, etc. (These are forms of asceticism, according to Sloterdijk.)

  39. It would be an exaggeration to claim that e.g. capitalism cultivates all of its reterritorializations consciously. (We can say that the prior deterritorialization is inherent to capitalism. However, that does not necessarily mean "conscious" either.) Much of that is left to chance or fortune.

  40. See Manning & Massumi for more thoughts on movement as epistemic.

  41. Such an enfolding, and particularly self-perception via the outside, can be related to the social nature of humanity. (See also [3].) We need something beyond ourselves to even be able to perceive ourselves. This is a powerful need.

  42. The physical body decomposes, etc. (In other words, it changes its relation to microorganisms.) It also changes in other (obvious) affective ways in death. These are different kinds of movements from those we usually associate with the body.

  43. I certainly do not mean to reinscribe duality here, but rather to interrogate it.

  44. I say "must" on account of my stated context here, but also because of the extreme historical weight given this entity called "subject." But as already noted, we cannot avoid the historical weight, if we are to interrogate the familiar, since historical weight is intimately related to familiarity.[45]

  45. Perhaps I should have included an explicitly history-related gesture. In any case, one can always ask about the history of these gestures. I will touch on it somewhat.

  46. I have yet to see a systematic interrogation of the relation between cultural subject formation (in the "self" sense) and different languages. Although some examples might prove too singular to generalize, such an exercise still seems promising to me. In any case, there would appear to be no doubt that the European sense of the subject is related to European grammar. (I'll leave the causality open, although it's probably safe to assume a feedback loop.) This is my (familiar) context.

  47. There is a distinction between a perceiving subject and the perceived body, but let's not rush to harden it.

  48. I want to note the use of the term "difference" in this sentence. A subsequent gesture will build more on the Openings regarding this concept.

  49. Classically, this might be called recognition instead. I will otherwise omit, or at least marginalize, that term/concept going forward. (I remind the reader that, for instance, familiarity need not be conscious.)

  50. In other words, familiar is the affect of memory.

  51. Yet, it is thinkable to lose a sense of familiarity with ourselves, not only in trauma or pathology — which might be included under the umbrella of "unthinkable" as things we would never choose — but in culturally sanctioned experience, at least in some cultures. (Peyote ritual is an example.) As per [46], such possibilities could likely be explored more systematically.

  52. With this observation, hopefully I have made the critical relation of the present gesture to the broader topic very obvious. (Hopefully it also justifies this rather overlong presentation.)

  53. It might also be worthwhile to look more closely at the overlap between perception & self. To what extent are these actually different things, aside from their cultural construction? In those terms, the present gesture title is not only shortened, but redundant: The basic circularity contracts to a singularity.

  54. I have yet to make much of an inquiry into the relation between the unfamiliar and our "inner" drives. However, it's important to observe that the unfamiliar is also a significant part of experience seeking, and in turn, identity formation.

  55. It might seem strange to characterize subject & object as only loosely bound in the self, but I do want to assert that. Different bodily interfaces can & do regularly function in different ways according to this distinction.[56] (In other words, we can problematize subject-object even where it might seem most firm.)

  56. Paraphrasing Lazzarato, who describes this situation well: Components of the subject are no longer integrated in the individual, but in machinic assemblages. In turn, the machinism of language creates the I-substance. (See [46] for my partial response to the second assertion.)

  57. Please recall that I assert the self-other duality as the primary duality in Hierarchy as rupture. Dualism is then a further reification.

  58. Indeed, Latour frames the problem with representation according to problems with the mind-body duality, and emerges with the pair reference-reproduction. I continue to find this to be a fascinating move, but further discussion will need to wait for my forthcoming critique of morality (which Latour retains as a mode).

  59. In the Lacanian sense, the subject is different from the real: The latter is always in excess of the former. (In other words, the self perceiving self figures the real but cannot define it.)

  60. Laws concerning the self have been a major component of liberal governmentality, figuring issues such as privacy, personal responsibility, etc. (It also seems worthwhile to consider law as a kind of technology, following Adorno.)

  61. Technology, particularly the internet & computers, has been (famously) defamiliarizing the way we interact — and in turn, think of ourselves — in the twenty-first century. Law has had to react to technology in these matters, and presently seems to be less of a leader in sculpting the late liberal self.

  62. I might call such feedback loops or processes "hysteresis," except that I dislike the sexist connotations of hysterical. (Note that the OED makes no connection between these terms. Nor does it include criticism of the sexism behind "hysteria" — it's simply reproduced. I cannot resist comparing this kind of reference-reproduction nexus to that mentioned in [58].)

  63. I've resisted the Lacanian big Other here, but do see [41]: Self-formation cannot be separated from the other. How one treats the other, however, can vary widely.

  64. Our perception of our bodies is certainly mediated. (Do I look fat? [65])

  65. As tempting as it is to leave that question naked, as long as I'm discussing dualism: The liberal subject is constructed under the tyranny of the mind-body duality, and women (reproducing duality) are told that it is their bodies that are of value (and neoliberal value is singular).

  66. This is a place where one could interrogate a nature-nurture duality, if one were so inclined. I believe that interest in this duality has decreased, with good reason, but it's worth specifically mentioning family generation (as generation, i.e. literally).

  67. It would be possible to pursue a different tack here [68], but I don't think it would add much to the present discussion.

  68. The reader might be asking what I actually believe on this issue. I don't actually believe anything. I pursue particular threads of connection in the hope of illuminating something, i.e. for a reason, not in absolute terms. In examining "the familiar," these threads are necessarily tied to cultural commonplaces. (Mathematically, one might characterize these answers as path dependent.) Someone might retort, "Aha, then this discussion is arbitrary!" Yes, it is: Elsewhere, this is what I've called "making a cut" — or "rupture as creation" in the terms of Hierarchy as rupture, Part III.

  69. There is no perception without sensation, as I've previously discussed.

  70. This cultural mediation, via concepts of self, concerns both (internal) self-mediation (discipline), as well as (external) mediation of what one's self is by the other. (In other words, such a duality is immediately artificial in this kind of cultural mediation.)

  71. The recent trend for object-oriented phenomenology (motivated in part by computer programming) is "interesting" for its transformation of objects into subjects. This is one very specific way to problematize the subject-object duality: It does not actually undermine the hegemony of the subject. (One might compare this move to augmentation of the liberal subject in other domains [72], prototypically voting rights.)

  72. Paraphrasing Braidotti, consciousness is blinded by narcissistic delusions of transcendence. In other words, the liberal subject remains at the center.

  73. Territory is the object of sovereignty, so personal territory implies a subject as sovereign: Personal territory is that over which the subject is sovereign, and is characteristic of liberal governmentality (implying "privacy," etc.).

  74. I remind the reader that territories are oriented around their own internal contradiction. In this case, the dual conception of the self is contradictory. This does not make it nonviable. Rather, it creates a territory. The incoherence itself becomes familiar. (Here I try to defamiliarize it.)

  75. As I wrote, in a different context, in [53]: The basic circularity contracts to a singularity.

  76. Put differently, Rilke via Adorno says that we are not at home in the already-interpreted world. In other words, our familiar scene cannot expand indefinitely. That will be alienating in itself. (Some people seem to suffer very much with this point: One can see the imperial self as self-alienating. Repercussions for the other follow.)

  77. As opposed to e.g. Deleuze's "dividual." (We are neither so separate nor so coherent.)

  78. That our memories are rewritten is a fact of neurology. Perhaps more relevant to perception is e.g. realizing that what we thought we saw wasn't what we saw, and so all the conclusions we had drawn are erroneous, etc. This reconfiguration happens at the moment of realization, even though we go on to figure it temporally. More commonly, these sorts of events are happening with only partial consciousness, making for a reconfiguration (or defamiliarization) of time as they collide. (We might also attempt to suppress such realization, preferring "consistency.")

  79. This is a Buddhist idea, as noted elsewhere.

  80. I don't want to bore the reader with another rehash of modernism, liberalism, imperialism, etc., but those (or that, if we consider them as one movement), and the changes they bring, have been traced somewhat. As far as the broader history of the world? There would appear to be many more possibilities, especially if considered carefully.

  81. And we are supposedly in a new era (according to Braudel & others). How has personal territory, even within the liberal context, changed in the past forty years? (Perhaps a thorough treatment of this topic will appear, given the information available.)

  82. Despite the dubiousness of the duality itself, as well as that of some of the resulting questions, hopefully there were some worthwhile connections explored in this paragraph. Hence the exercise. (After all, at some level, none of this makes much sense: That's the circularity of perceiving self!)

  83. The answer sounds silly here, but I did promise to ask the question within all these gestures, and hopefully it will be more helpful later. (I hope it's obvious that the gesture — perceiving self — includes all emotions: They are both something we perceive about ourselves, and something arising in ourselves via perception.)

  84. Physical recoil or revulsion to bodies in trauma cannot be denied, although as noted elsewhere, I question a broader (constitutive) reliance on this response. (One might also interrogate its relation to ableism.)

  85. Balibar identifies the development of the concept of "unease" with the inquiries (forging the liberal subject) exemplified by Locke. This leads us, eventually, to existential angst (and the nothingness, or I would say, contradiction at the center of the subject). This latter has been less about trans-self identification than the difficulties it entails, although those are in turn about trans-self identification (and with it, the failure of the liberal subject).[86]

  86. I feel apologetic for engaging in such a tight circle, yet again, but then, as I keep saying, this is a circular gesture.

  87. On this point, I am saving Laruelle's recently translated Intellectuals and Power for Chapter IV. Further on this tack [88], I also have Katerina Kolozova's new monograph in my reading queue, but I believe that will need to wait until after the present article. (These investigations never end....)

  88. The nautical imagery is actually a conscious reference to Schmitt's epochal nomos shift concept. (I am navigating a smooth space, to mix in Deleuzian imagery.)

  89. Perhaps I am being overly repetitive with this observation, but people seem to forget that they were not born with a sense of self.

  90. It is probably possible to figure these other irruptions (or at least some of them) without a sense of self, but I trust this approach will be more straightforward.[92]

  91. In terms of standpoint theory, I am first situating myself via my views on the self per se. It will be observed that further situation emerges in the other gestures, which are directed differently.

  92. But not too straightforward. (I'm especially reluctant to embrace such a term in a work that is, at least partly, queer theory!)

Sex in routine

Although perceiving self is inherent to self, i.e. a self does not form (or irrupt) without perception, this next gesture [1] does not demand reflexivity, nor does it exhaust either the component topics "sex" or "routine." The gesture is more specific than either, although we will find no shortage of ways that sex is positioned in routine. Let me first consider the words chosen [2]: Routine comes from the word route [4], via French & Latin, and is defined according to terms such as mechanical, procedure, & duty.[5,6] (I might have chosen the term "habit" instead, but I find "routine" to be the better description here, both literally [7], and because of the theory already associated with the term habit.[8]) When it comes to "sex," I will forego the dictionary: The question, "What is sex?" should animate this entire discussion.[9] As one partial (and presumably unsatisfying) answer, sex is what constitutes the present irruption: Activity becomes sex when it somehow rises to our consciousness [10] — via familiarity — as sex. Some readers may feel they already know what sex is, and can define it without resort to consciousness or familiarity: Sex is an activity that could [11] lead to reproduction?[13] Sex is genital contact? One or more genitals contacted? (How many people are involved? Are they in physical proximity?) Is kissing sex?[14] What about some hypothetical person who has no idea what sex is, but starts having it?[15] Does there need to be an orgasm?[16] More than one orgasm? What if a man ejaculates while fully clothed, but caressing someone? Or watching a video? What if a woman does? These are some questions illustrating what I mean about sex irrupting into consciousness — and different people, even those involved [17], might have different opinions: Our familiarity with (ideas on) "sex" will condition when we feel an activity is sex. (Maybe we didn't feel it was sex until the orgasm starts, and then we decide that it is.[18,19]) Can we have sex without a sense of self? Doesn't sex blur the sense of self?[20] Is sex sexist?[21] Is subject formation always indexed by sex?[22] All that said (or asked), I remind the reader that this is an interrogation of a more specific gesture, not sex generally.[24]

The forgoing aside, there are many messages telling us what sex is. There are also many messages telling us what it is not, what we must not do.[26] That sex has frequently been circumscribed (legally [27]) to be procreative sex within marriage is not a new observation, but I do want to connect changes in this domain to our epochal economic shift: We have moved from a regime of labor shortage to a regime of labor surplus.[28,30] Without the economic premium on procreation [31], the disciplinary regime eases its restrictions on non-procreative sex [32] (although the pressure to marry has not eased [33]).[34] Whether this means that people have more non-procreative sex is an open question [35], but it certainly means that people discuss it more openly.[36] And non-procreative sex can yield an emphasis on sexual novelty.[37,38] I wanted to come to this point, because I want to discuss the familiar & the unfamiliar. With repetition, sexual activity becomes familiar (and, as stated above, this is how we know that it is "sex" [39]), and we might begin to desire the unfamiliar.[40,41] Even without repetition, we might desire (and have long desired) sex different from the received norms [42]: There is a play of familiar & unfamiliar in kinky sex, fetishes, BDSM, etc.: Bodies, including our own, can become defamiliarized; extremes of familiarity [43] can be explored.[44] Social contexts, the law itself, oppression itself, can be deterritorialized, defamiliarized — possibly to be reterritorialized in a completely different way.[45] Such an exploration might be very serious, or it might be funny, campy [46]: It deals in the other, the unfamiliar. Strong bodily sensation, including orgasm [47], has the power to realign bodily interfaces. Such power brings danger [48]: I would argue that the danger is not only to ourselves, but to governmentality & discipline per se.[49] Explorations of the familiar & the unfamiliar ask what might be otherwise, and sexual explorations go to the core of our identities.[50] Such explorations let us know the body differently [51], performatively.[52,57] This difference has often been framed as profane.[58] Through it, we might be undone, past the limit where we break, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally.[59,60,61]

As opposed to perceiving self, which contained all emotions, an inquiry into specific emotions is highly relevant for sex in routine. Whereas I do not want to attempt to discuss or critique all of attachment theory [62], an inquiry is needed: Different stages or types of attachment figure sex, whether as novelty or routine. Social messages tell us the dominant emotion is or should be love, and love is a stable long-term emotion [63] compatible with familiarity & routine: Love promotes social stability.[64] Since these gestures invoke motion, we must inquire, briefly, as to the irruption of love [67]: Sex need not lead to love, we know, nor vice versa, but such topics have been studied widely over the past few decades, leading to concepts such as limerence [68]: This research interrogates biological orientation to fall in love. (We might also want sex with someone, yielding a different or composite mood.[69]) Within such an orientation (and maybe even without [70]), the intimacy of sexual contact is a bonding activity.[71,72] Feedback between drives & orientations enhances arousal [73] & satisfaction [74] — such a process is driven both by the security of familiarity & the excitement of unfamiliarity.[75,76] As duality [77], familiar-unfamiliar becomes a kind of sexual bellows [80]: The regime of love falls under the former [81], whereas the latter can bring other intense emotions.[82] Typical analyses of the interaction between love & sex assume or advance monogamy: Like BDSM, non-monogamy is considered to be a danger to liberal governmentality. "Cheating" [83] can be assimilated (as per [80]), but something like polyamory [84] breaks homology, i.e. the supposed 1:1 social mapping.[86] Polyamory challenges not only homology, but dualism itself, in taking the romantic relationship [85] out of the binary realm.[88] Such attachments prove to be subversive for their broader interrogation of singular (monogamous) attachment — whether to god, country, sports team, monetary value, etc.[89] Sexual relations become overtly political.[91] Sex, as a bodily way of relating to others [92], can blur the self-other interface (at least temporarily), and provides one route to interrogate posthuman subjectivity: What is posthuman love, i.e. without the liberal subject? Love — and sex — as a means toward dissolution of self [93] suggests an affective response to the posthuman.

Since even novelty-seeking can become routine, we must consider how sexual relation is viewed in an aggregate social sense.[94,96] No modern theory of aggregate relations has been more powerful than evolution [97]: To many, it is the replacement for religion in the transcendental domain, and (sexual [98]) reproduction is a fundamental explanatory mechanism [99] for evolutionary models. In other words, evolutionary theory attempts to describe (or circumscribe) our sexual routine. One reason for the popularity of evolutionary theory as social explanation [100] is its easy correspondence with modernist progress narratives. This correspondence is, without doubt, responsible for much of evolutionary theory's broader social figuration, and leads me to interrogate relation as it inheres in the present gesture: Subject & object in sexual relations is an obvious topic [102], but this gesture inquires about sex & routine themselves as subject or object: Which drives the other? Is the answer consistent? (No, the relation can go in either direction.) Moreover, sex itself, particularly with its evolutionary trappings, becomes a model of relation per se.[103] The 1-2-3 relation of dialectics relies on a sexually inflected progress narrative: The 1 & 2 of the heteronormative partners come together to form the child or resolution, 3.[104,105] Such a logical model not only serves to reinforce the progress narrative [106], but to center sexual reproduction within that narrative. Finally, chain together dialectic events (as a routine [107]), and you achieve progress-inflected "evolution." Such a routine is also reflected in the economic domain via intermarriage & inheritance.[108] Marriage, then, as an arena of political theology [109], becomes anachronistic [110] absent such a narrative, and new forms of sexual morality can succeed theological morality.[111] Note that this kind of multi-generation social routine takes us rather far from the intimate convergence of orgasm per [77] (which can also be figured transcendentally [96]): It's familiar in a vaguely impersonal sense.

If evolution figures sex over generations as progress, we can likewise say that sex in routine literally generates the familiar.[112] The evolutionary narrative also marks a time frame for sex in routine, a very different time frame from that of individual routine & consequent irruption of sex into consciousness. Correspondingly [113], we can ask, if the dominant narrative says that all of our (spontaneous [114]) sexual activity leads to the same dialectic progress [115], why is the social hierarchy so concerned with the type [117] of sex people are having? As mediation, we have liberal "privacy"[118] — no one else is to know.[119,120] Intimacy [123] & privacy become bound [124] via the familiar.[125] The incoherence of this situation is treated in typical fashion, by creating an underclass from within the unfamiliar [126], and blaming it for the general incoherence. We thus return to the mood of fear [128], figured by the unfamiliar (the other), that routine was devised to obscure [96]: The sexual bellows [129] drives social narrative in turn.[130,131] I conclude the present gesture in this incoherent state.[132]

  1. I remind the reader that both the selection & ordering of the gestures is somewhat arbitrary.

  2. I am mostly neglecting the preposition "in" in this discussion, not because it is unimportant to the gesture, but because its meaning should be rather evident: A set theory perspective is suitable enough here, imagining the set "sex" being placed [3] in the set "routine."

  3. The word "in" is thus also meaningful in the indirect — reflected in the passive voice — wondering about who or what is performing such placement. (We might also expect resistance or inversion.)

  4. The term "route" itself is from the Latin ruptus, meaning broken, as in breaking a path. (This etymology would fit nicely into Part III of Hierarchy as rupture, although I neglected to mention it there.)

  5. These terms are taken, as is my usual preliminary procedure, from the OED entry, where the term "routine" dates from 1680. Paraphrasing the first quote from that entry: The general business of the world lies in routines and forms. (I enjoy this quote in the present context.)

  6. Hopefully the mention of "duty" brings to mind Assertion 5 of Remède de Fortune.

  7. A routine can also be e.g. a stage act or computer instructions. I find these images to be appropriate as well. (The term fits very well here, better than I had initially hoped).

  8. Bourdieu is probably the best known interrogator of habit, but the concept also finds its way into Latour's modes, etc.

  9. As just stated, I cannot circumscribe the discussion of what sex is, but do note that I am thinking of bodily activity. Or at least activity.

  10. It's tempting to say that sex (to be sex) rises above the level of mundane everyday activity, but I must disagree with such an assessment. It can be very much a mundane everyday activity, which is part of the point.

  11. The word "could" could, conceivably, be extended very far here. "Could" conventional heterosexual penis-in-vagina sex [12] between people who are not fertile lead to reproduction? These are the sorts of topics I am invoking with this paragraph.

  12. "PIV" sex is the abbreviation used in various (casual?) discussions. Some people say that PIV sex is the only "real" sex, and don't tend to mediate that according to the possibility of reproduction.

  13. By reproduction here, I (mostly) mean biological reproduction, i.e. fertilizing an egg with a sperm to form a human embryo. I left the term naked because of its other implications, and ask the reader to ponder what else might be reproduced.

  14. Asking if kissing is sex might be different from asking if kissing is sexual. Or perhaps such a distinction is only another problem.

  15. I mean that this ignorant person starts doing things that many other people would consider sexual. (I know examples of personal experiences from people who retroactively realized they were having sex, or at least what the other person thought was sex, so this is not merely a rhetorical point.)

  16. What is an orgasm? (We discussed this a bit in the previous gesture.) The question will arise again.

  17. Do actors in pornography believe that they are engaged in sex acts with people masturbating at home? What if the pornography is viewed together by a sexually active couple? What about background viewing at a sex party?

  18. For instance, I was rather surprised to find myself ejaculating while watching a movie as a young man. (These strange experiences seem to become rather less common later in life, though, unless one seeks them more actively, in which case they already feel sexual.)

  19. What if advanced technology can be developed to the point that having an orgasm becomes as fast & simple as pushing a button? What if the button isn't continuous with your body? (For instance, consider an electromagnetic field that instantly aligns minds-bodies for orgasm. I am not asking about this without believing that other possibilities will arise, perhaps soon.)

  20. United with the other, we know not where one body ends and the other begins, where one mind ends and the other begins.... (This is the Romantic image.)

  21. Not to get too far into the dictionary here, but "sex" can simply mean "female" according to the OED. In other words, "sex" signifies duality, and the action of signifying duality can signify the oppressed. This simple gesture is worth pondering for a moment.

  22. I am going to answer an emphatic "no" to that question, although reasons will emerge only gradually. Certainly it has been the Freudian approach to index subjectification by sex, and that approach has been followed in many areas of psychoanalysis, as well as (perhaps even more relentlessly) by the general public: Many people are careful to dress their tiny babies in gender-indexed clothing, for instance. But try as they might, these institutions are unable to index subject by sex in every instance. There are escapes, and not infrequently. Here we can consider those escapes via lines of flight, and moreover, that such potentiality — the opening to the unfamiliar, as discussed in the previous gesture — actually stabilizes personal territory, even under the liberal regime of subjectivity. In other words, an "always" is simply impossible.[23] (Perhaps this is more than I wanted to say here....)

  23. I certainly do not mean to imply that attempts to impose the "always" are not painful; perhaps they are very much so.

  24. Broader critical/scholarly treatments of sex can be found in e.g. Flandrin's history Sex In The Western World [25], or in Foucault's monumental The History of Sexuality in three volumes.

  25. It's not about sex, although relations between food & sex are explored in various ways (elsewhere), but let me also mention Flandrin's anthology Food, coedited with Massimo Montanari. I will not have time to explore the food correspondence in a more significant way here, but I will at least note that food can also be routinized, and so parallels our present gesture in multiple ways, not least being the (presumed) biological imperative.

  26. Moving far afield, when e.g. the Pope comes out with a proclamation about what not to do in music, musicologists safely conclude that people were already doing it. These sorts of prohibitions are signifying as more than prohibitions, as Freud quickly realized.

  27. The law has been a traditional technology for managing both sex & marriage, although the broader techniques of governmentality have also applied, and continue to apply — perhaps more than the law in the contemporary West.

  28. As I've discussed elsewhere, the modern era was an era of labor shortage, as human labor was necessary for capital accumulation, and often the limiting factor. Now human labor is increasingly replaced by technology, as well as a broader sense of who might be a suitable capitalist laborer. In other words, on the latter point, although there is still a premium on the white male (straight, etc.) employee, it is not what it once was. (In yet other words, income disparity within nations rises, while income disparity between nations falls — somewhat.[29]) Moreover, the limiting factors are more often physical resources or the environment.

  29. Although this statement should probably come with more context, I'll note that the term "nations" is rather versatile here: It needn't have a precise meaning, but then, it also cannot signify just any group of people, in order to be accurate. Perhaps it's worth pondering — here, that is, since in other contexts it's certainly worth pondering — the way globalization inflects these various hierarchies. (I need to leave this topic now: The following aftershocks are more than enough on this tangent for the present gesture.)

  30. A new term for the regime of labor surplus is "worker precarity." Keeping people employed is not a general priority for wealth accumulation (although new methods are developed to exploit "excess" labor). So, one might say that precarity is deployed differently (with different geography) than in the (recent) past.

  31. Moreover, there are many messages that having (too many) children is actually bad for the planet. (Of course, any resulting policy is differentially applied, according to social hierarchy.)

  32. Laws against e.g. sodomy continue to be challenged, and mostly overturned. (I am speaking from the USA perspective, but these trends seem to be active many places, although not everywhere.) However, these legal changes also tend to be rather random, and come with mixed messages. Different arenas within the social regime take different approaches, and some are much more wrapped up in historical stances toward procreative sex. It's important to note this chaotic & contradictory situation, while also noting the trend.

  33. Law (again, speaking from USA) is still very biased in favor of marriage. Not only is this related to general chaos & bastions of tradition (as in [32]), but well-defined social units are easier to administer. Exploding family structures would (do) undoubtedly place a strain on governmentality & social discipline. Whereas this observation seems obvious, I believe it's important to keep in mind relative to e.g. homonormativity.

  34. It is so difficult to move the discussion of this gesture forward through these political & legal angles. That or I am too easily distracted. In any case, while I'm trying to minimize such tangents here, politics will be an emphasis in Chapter IV.

  35. It can be tricky to examine this question, because the answers can be politicized in a variety of ways. Personally, and this is entirely speculation, I believe that more discussion of different sexual practices leads to more people trying them. (I do not say this as a reason to stop discussion, far from it, but some people do.)

  36. Increased discussion is easy to measure: For instance, television, both the programming & advertising, features far more scenes of & allusions to non-procreative sex. Advertising sexual aids for middle-aged people is one interesting example.

  37. I do not want to characterize a move from non-procreative sex to sexual novelty as an inevitable progression. Various people are happy with the same sorts of non-procreative sex over the long term. It is (a part of) their routine.

  38. By "novelty" here, I do not mean the stereotypical young male quest to fuck (often quite conventionally) as many young women as possible. I mean different sexual practices, whether with the same partner(s) or others.

  39. Some people might be repeating activities that a hypothetical observer would consider sexual, but that they themselves do not consider to be sex. This might be true of e.g. masturbation.

  40. Similar to [39], some people have never had the (type of) sex that they have been desiring, and so "novelty" is not the right description for them, even if it is technically accurate. It would still be accurate to say "unfamiliar," however, even if they have formed a firm image of what such sex would (or should) be like.

  41. Although notions like "spicing up a marriage" are common, some people are happy performing the same sexual routine indefinitely: The more you do it, the better you know each other, the better it gets, is one attitude. Does this correlate to people who are less interested in trying new things in other aspects of their lives? I don't know the answer, but I believe there are probably other factors that could be important (such as previous sexual frustration, fear of a partner's response, etc.). I also do not want to disparage people who are happy with the sex they are having — or, for that matter, people who are unhappy.

  42. "Normal" sex is called "vanilla sex" in some circles.

  43. Extremes of the familiar can yield the unfamiliar.

  44. The pain-pleasure duality might dissolve into pure sensation.

  45. The staging of fantastic (in the literal sense, so that I might call the staging itself "fantasmatic") scenes would seem to go beyond acting when it comes with deep bodily responses such as orgasm. We are literally trained to respond — and this goes very much for the most heteronormative of monogamous couples too! (I want to emphasize this last point, although again, this entire sequence of thoughts can be used for different political purposes: The discussion remains dangerous.)

  46. I read (in Morreall's book) that comedy & laughing make sex impossible. This statement made me laugh. Obviously, we have rather different experiences.

  47. I inquired in the previous gesture regarding orgasm, whether it involved releasing a flow that had stopped. (This is a tantric view, as well as Deleuzian). I asked this in the context of considering positive feelings within our bodies. Is orgasm a familiar feeling? I will answer like this: Differing sexual practices might defamiliarize the context of orgasm, but the orgasm itself becomes a familiar feeling. (I say "becomes" not in the context of repeating orgasm events, but rather during the event: There is a kind of convergence, i.e. the opening of that familiar flow.) The unfamiliar serves to heighten the familiar in this event.

  48. More mainstream sexologists, such as Jack Morin in The Erotic Mind, talk accordingly about balancing novelty & safety. Safety is a major concern in the BDSM community as well. (Safety becomes its own routine: Routine becomes safety generally.)

  49. Sexual practices (such as tantra) have their own regime of discipline. It might fit well with the general social discipline (or ascetology), or it might not.

  50. Being "gay" is an "identity," after all, and so is being a top or a bottom or having a foot fetish, at least according to some people. Not only might our desires define our selves — whether we desire that or not — but our desires might be prompted by our explorations (of desire), in a chain of consequences. (I do not believe that all or most people have static desires, even if — in order to obey a regime of consistency — they would prefer the situation to be so: Can desire possibly exist in static form? One cannot step in the same river twice....)

  51. As alluded in [49], there are other regimes of ascetology that allow analogous knowledge & manipulation of the body. However, at least conventionally, the sexual regime is considered to be the most powerful: Such a notion permeates our society, even if it is not generally true. (Such a notion also yields to typology. As we've discussed, what is or isn't in the sexual regime is unclear, or variable.)

  52. Many people also try to know the body differently via pornography (rather than participate in different sexual practices). Pornography is a kind of hard-core documentary, an ethnography according to Jennifer Nash: It reflects a desire to know. I might ask in turn about a desire to know without participation, but by doing so, I will have already circumscribed participation. So let me soften that prejudice [53], while still wondering about the ocularcentrism of pornography [54] — or perhaps this last is a technical limitation: What is pornography & what is sex in some kind of hypothetical, immersive virtual reality? How much of "the other" might it be able to document?[56]

  53. I am certainly prejudiced against pornography, i.e. watching, as opposed to participation. I encounter this difference between myself & others often enough. I could analogize it to my preference for writing over reading, performing over watching generally. Watching other people is likely to bore me, but then, I am not visually oriented.

  54. Is it possible for pornography to be amodal, in terms of sensation? Is there a transverse direction to porn?[55]

  55. To get anywhere near "transverse porn," we would need a non-exploitative pornography industry, but then, that certainly seems possible in principle. (Some readers might believe that pornography is exploitative by nature, but I don't agree. Simply put, some people like to be watched.)

  56. Is documenting the body of the other via pornography Spinozist, or anti-Spinozist? (Do we really want to know what a body can do?) And what of documentary generally? When does it become pornography? (If we cannot say when something becomes sex....)

  57. Perhaps this is not the direction that many thinkers in performance studies & performativity want to go, but I believe that sex is very relevant to performance more generally: Performance is about the body, and the body is (always already) covered in signs, many of them sexual.

  58. Even well-known critical thinkers have framed e.g. BDSM as beneath contempt, an example to be used only as part of a reduction to absurdity. (Zizek does this while spouting all manner of sexist jokes.) Such thought invokes its own typology, in a kind of bourgeois finger pointing (i.e. the basic physical gesture of proof by contradiction). Comparing Kant to de Sade becomes about disparaging both (and I won't defend Kant's side in this comparison).

  59. I will do little more than note the historical (and still current) notion that people interested in alternative sexual practices must be psychologically broken: Simply wanting to interrogate or disrupt social hierarchy (as the Marquis de Sade explicitly stated as his aim) can be seen as evidence of psychopathology by itself. (I believe that, sexual interests aside, most readers will have at least an interest in social interrogation more broadly.)

  60. It's probably worth noting that vanilla sexual relationships have been known to break people physically, mentally, or emotionally. (One need not look very hard in order to observe this!)

  61. Per [49], that we might break is inherent to ascetic pursuits. Perhaps the most mundane example is athletes tearing the fibers of their muscles in order to rebuild them stronger. Without danger, without damage, there is no asceticism.

  62. I do not have that expertise, although I'll note the nexus between infantile & adult attachment styles: You have no control over your attachments as an infant, but whatever style those attachments end up being can affect how you attach as an adult, which can in turn affect how you interact with your infant, etc.

  63. Badiou deemphasizes this sense of stability when he urges us to love what we will never see twice. Such a love might be characterized as part of a broader consistency, to encompass not just the familiar, but also the unfamiliar. (Loving the unfamiliar is a figure of the present gesture.)

  64. We might desire stability in our sexual relationships, in turn, because we want to trust the people touching our bodies [65], want them to be intimately familiar with us over the long term. We might want consistency — including consistent & regular sexual activity — as part of a routine. We might fear sexually transmitted infection (although here the fearmongering itself is a big factor, even if there are real concerns). This is all a part of "knowing" someone, if I may invoke the so-called biblical sense.

  65. Forging the relevant trust with strangers at sex parties is easier than some readers might imagine: Such trust is build in part from the routine or rules of the "sex party" event. And such routines or rules include a particular communication style regarding what is okay and what isn't. The statement "I am respecting your wishes (boundaries)" becomes performative (as it so often is). Such an event becomes its own routine [66], even when about novel practices.

  66. "Surprise me!" is something one might be reluctant to say at a kinky sex party full of strangers, whereas it can be part of a committed relationship — if, perhaps, more difficult to achieve. (How much does one want to communicate during sexual activity? Preferences differ.)

  67. Perhaps a gesture specifically invoking love would have been worthwhile. It is, likewise, constituted at least in part by familiarity. (Perhaps the unfamiliar is especially marginalized in such a hypothetical gesture, but see [63].)

  68. The concept of "limerence," basically meaning an orientation or infatuation toward falling in love with someone, as distinct from sexual lust (or fantasy), was developed by psychologist Dorothy Tennov (beginning in the 1970s, i.e. the new epoch).

  69. Is lust an emotion? It's probably not, as typically conceived, although differing component emotions can likely be extracted from such a situation. (Is hunger an emotion? What emotions might come with it?)

  70. The power of sexual bonding is why people who do not want to feel a connection to their sexual partners might become particularly disdainful toward them, or at least work to maintain distance in some other way. (Attempting to possess them is another common approach, with its implications for continuing to own the blurred self.)

  71. Sex might heighten limerence, but is not necessary for the orientation to exist.

  72. Defining sex as a bonding activity might prove helpful, although we would probably need to distinguish it from other human bonding activities, especially those that emphasize physical contact (such as sports). Whether such a distinction is really needed might also be a matter of opinion, although it is clear that sex can function as a bonding activity even without orgasm, so that cannot be the criterion.

  73. Arousal is a basic type of affective response, more basic than familiarity, and applicable to more forms of life, although familiarity might be rather broadly applicable too.

  74. There is some debate regarding whether satisfaction is an emotion: One might consider it an assessment of emotional state, i.e. a meta-emotion. (And here I use "meta" literally to mean "after," as opposed to some usage that inverts the meaning.) This view suggests an understanding of emotions as existing on one plane, which I consider to be too restrictive. Satisfaction is not an affect, i.e. it is not pre-emotional (pre-cultural), so the question becomes: How many layers of hierarchy do we want to build or reflect? (I note this example more for its general implication than for the example itself.)

  75. Anonymous stranger sex can be very exciting, after all, presumably with no limerent tone. Indeed, the absence of such an orientation feeds sexual excitement via the unfamiliar.

  76. Much more has been written on the topic of sexual excitement than I can or want to summarize here.

  77. I have already taken pains to establish that the familiar & the unfamiliar do not, generally speaking, function as a duality: They might both be present in a perception or event, neither might be present, etc. They do not span a space in any real sense. However, they do function in this manner in the limited regime of sexual excitement. Even when both are present in an encounter, they produce a tension, not an overlap. (Or so I claim.) We desire resolution of this tension via orgasm, as per the convergence of [47].[78]

  78. I suggest holding such tensions in one's mind, without desire. (It might not be easy, but the reward is the kind of insanity that can drive one to write crazy articles such as this one![79] So my ascetic tendencies come out....)

  79. The craziness of the present gesture is still only beginning.[61]

  80. We are told that restricting ourselves to either the familiar or the unfamiliar will be a challenge sexually, even if the stability of the familiar is what is mandated by governmentality (and maybe even desired via self-discipline).

  81. A desire for love is a desire to familiarize or be familiarized.

  82. Some emotions associated with the unfamiliar in sex: Fear (interrogated via e.g. BDSM), frustration, shame, pride, joy of accomplishment, perhaps anger, etc. (Many, or perhaps all, of these emotions can accompany love as well, where tensions in self-other can mirror oscillations in familiar-unfamiliar.)

  83. At least in USA, the term "cheating" seems to be widely understood to mean having sexual (or sometimes non-sexual) relations outside of a presumptive monogamous arrangement. The term assumes "relationship rules" that everyone must obey, even if those rules were never discussed, or even if they were explicitly rejected. Even when told what someone's relationship rules are, or aren't, many people will continue (habitually) to use terms like cheating. This dynamic is a great example of a disciplinary regime per se.

  84. "Polyamory" is currently a trendy term for having more than one committed romantic relationship.[85] I use it as an example here, not because I might be referring to something entirely different, but because the term itself might not be so widely embraced. (It originated in the online science fiction community.)

  85. I'll defer defining "romantic relationship": The term is widely used, and such a relationship (presumably) includes both sex & love. Although some might say it needn't include sex, sex would at least be conceivable within the relationship — whatever that means. (Romantic love, as a literary model, does not necessarily include sexual consummation. And "consummation" is yet another social image we might not want to validate.)

  86. The notion that there is one person for each of us (i.e. a "soulmate") is remarkably resilient to widespread evidence to the contrary. Of course, such notions are broadcast widely as part of governmentality: A 1:1 (homological) structure is considered to be easier for enacting social discipline. It's unclear to me that this is even true [87], but such forces of control are involved in the persistence of the notion.

  87. Failures of homology, in this case, a failure to find one's mate, can easily be assimilated to the disciplinary regime: The regime needs examples of failure to motivate others to conform. (This is not unique to sexual-love relations.) Such "remainders" of social homology always exist anyway.

  88. Non-binary romantic relations suggest non-binary gender as well. Although gender norms are often preserved in polyamorous relationships, and sometimes hyperbolically so, they are far more likely to be subverted than in monogamous relationships. This subversion is not only about general queerness, but the simple geometric difference from binary relation.

  89. The emphasis on singular, or monogamous, attachment under the regime of liberal governmentality should not be underestimated: To borrow an image, the opposite can become rhizomatic. (When discussing monogamy, one is supposed to conveniently forget that multiple love relations are common [90] between e.g. parents & children, as well as elsewhere in a family. This bit of dissonance remains striking in many debates about polyamory.)

  90. Whether everyone is "able" to be polyamorous is a matter for debate among people practicing polyamory. (Some consider it to be a special, inherent attribute.) This debate basically restages such nature-nurture debates as whether one is born gay (or, in this case, born polyamorous): As readers will know, I consider such debates to be superfluous. (Dare I quote Crowley here?)

  91. One is, of course, reminded of the "free love" movement of the 1960s, and other such movements through history. (This is one reason that the term "polyamory" is not necessarily embraced by everyone, as per [84].)

  92. Autoeroticism suggests, not a challenge to this statement, but rather a different configuration of self-other. (Perhaps this is part of the origin of its social stigma.)

  93. I should also note that many religions have had "dissolution of self" as a goal. This applies even to some forms of Christianity, although dissolution is not typically sought while alive.

  94. The relationship between interactions viewed from the perspective of the individual & from the perspective of the whole is called in physical science, "thermodynamics.[95]" Clarity on such matters seems important to social inquiry, perhaps most conspicuously in the contemporary political arguments over economics (where individuals seem to believe that the nation or world has structural constraints similar to their own).

  95. This is not the place to interrogate the historical process by which relation between small (molecular) & human body-sized (pressure, etc.) became associated with heat. However, the curiosity is worth noting: Relations involving heat (perhaps measured via temperature) were investigated early and then generalized mathematically. (And this was my own thesis work decades ago.)

  96. I will not otherwise indulge in more interrogation of immanent-transcendent here, although there is no shortage of sexual imagery regarding this duality.

  97. I will treat "evolution" in a fairly vague sense, to include everything that people believe is included in the theory of evolution. So this includes social Darwinism, etc. These ideas, although discredited in some spectacular ways, continue to arise frequently in everyday conversation (or at least that is my experience, here in one of the world's leading technical regions).

  98. Considering sexual reproduction to be primary is, of course, a conceit of us "higher" animals. Far more practical results have come from evolutionary models applied to bacteria & other microorganisms.

  99. Sexual selection is also a mechanism that demands explanation within evolutionary models: So it is both explanatory & demanding of explanation in typical circular fashion. The resulting feedback loop allows small changes in concept to have broad implications.

  100. Perhaps I should note specifically that, whereas evolutionary principles have revolutionized microbiology, their application at the level of human society has been, at best, dubious. The main legacies are eugenics, and today's tendency to feel smug when someone else does something stupid and dies. Put differently, no credible model of human evolutionary development has any real implication for public policy, so its popularity as social explanation is matched only by its uselessness as social explanation. (And if the reader doesn't believe me, I suggest trying to think of a concrete example: What does evolution tell us the law should be?[101] One can probably find examples with regard to other species....)

  101. My example question is intended to be different from a question such as: Where has evolutionary theory been used in dubious ways to justify some social action or policy? Those examples abound, including, prominently, in neoliberal concepts of "the market."

  102. Sexual objectification has a widespread literature. The self-help genre is littered with discussions of sexual subjectification. (All of this is within the regime of the liberal subject, of course.)

  103. As a reminder from the previous gesture, familiar is worked via relation, and unfamiliar is unworked via unrelation.

  104. Perhaps I am belaboring the discussion of dialectics, but I have seen surprisingly little discussion of this type elsewhere.

  105. Dialectic "sexuality" is thus rigidly dualist, in that the sexual release (and we could consider the implicit capacitance model) is directed precisely toward the other. There is no transverse flow, but rather a particular, conclusive result. (Negative dialectics is one method for uncovering remainders that didn't fit this result.) We also know that the 1 & 2 are not interchangeable under the heteronormative regime of liberal subjectivity.

  106. This is why (or one sketch of why) some writers want to position love as an opaque encounter, absent (dialectic) mediation. Even a description of love as the experience of pure difference would seem to reinforce liberal subjectivity, however.

  107. The various meanings of "routine" come together wonderfully here.

  108. See my related discussion of debt with inheritance in Remède de Fortune (where the latter is something of a general theme).

  109. There are many & ongoing attempts to ground marriage in different kinds of theory, but the model of political theology has proven difficult to replace. Who or what is it, exactly, that wants us to marry? The state does not want to reconfigure its legal assemblage (as a point of political inertia).

  110. It might be worth asking if notions of "sex" itself are politically anachronistic.

  111. Further discussion of morality will have to wait for a subsequent project. (I'm hesitant to promise anything specific, given how long the present project has been in my queue.)

  112. If sex generates the familiar (or the family), the unfamiliar is confronted with mediation. In other words, taking a sexual (or marriage) partner from another family introduces mediation into generation. (This is, again, dialectic sexuality as per [105].)

  113. I might say "homologically" here instead, if I wanted to complicate the exposition.

  114. The dominant narrative would likely use "natural" here. (In other words, the dominant narrative claims both to know in advance what people will do, collectively, and also to dislike many specific acts: Somehow the "unnatural" can sum to the natural.)

  115. I am being disingenuous: Dialectic progress demands a 3, and so reproductive sex. The basic incoherence here is between that demand and what actually occurs: Such incoherence has been addressed by characterizing non-reproductive sex as "unnatural" — a characterization that becomes increasingly untenable in the evolutionary frame, but that can be figured, in facile manner [116], as non-surviving there. (The latter, in turn, requires an untenable duality. Or more simply put: One can actually have all these kinds of sex, perhaps even simultaneously.)

  116. To state the very obvious: Non-reproductive sex does actually survive (even if the individuals engaging in it do not reproduce).

  117. Social hierarchy demands a typological approach. We have been over this point many times now.

  118. See Warner's Publics and Counterpublics for one discussion of public & private. For a rather different perspective, see Duby's A History of Private Life.

  119. Have I said too much or too little about my own sexual activities here?

  120. Sexual privacy is overwhelmingly figured as visual, reflecting ocularcentrism. (Rather, privacy figured via touch is a different layer of privacy, one that our linguistic assemblage is less suited to interrogate.[121]) The sexual image remains among the most popular in marketing, for example: The implicit calls to voyeurism refigure sexual privacy & heighten tension.[122]

  121. The sensory demands made possible by technical innovation will soon — if not already — require an assemblage capable of interrogating them: The law is lagging far behind on this point. (The posthuman presents a major legal challenge, regardless of its political outcome.)

  122. Perhaps I should note the relation between scopic fixation & castration anxiety. (Many media analyses cry out for explicit discussion of this point, although it cannot be generalized too far, since castration anxiety is imaginary. Where it applies, though, the results can be spectacular.)

  123. This is true of more than sexual intimacy. Other styles of intimacy are also figured by routine, both as subject & object.

  124. Evolution-figured social theory attempts to offer reasons for why intimacy & privacy are and should be bound. (They largely fail to interrogate "privacy" as a modern creation. Such failings are typical of such theories.)

  125. In this sense, familiarity becomes synonymous with trust.

  126. Definition of the sexual underclass is currently undergoing revision, but be certain, absent a reconfiguration of other forms, a sexual underclass will remain.[127] (This is one way to frame concerns about homonormativity, although that is only a part of the revision.)

  127. Obscenity continues to be an undefined (and therefore, versatile) reservoir or container into which the sexual underclass can be placed. ("Obscenity" has this legal standing in USA, at least.) The obscene sutures the familiar & the unfamiliar in a particular way: The obscene can be neither too familiar nor too unfamiliar in order to function as obscenity: This liminality is its danger, the danger of transversal.

  128. The Hobbesian figuration is thus linked directly to sexual marginalization as well. (This will have been very obvious to many readers already.)

  129. Recall the figure of sexual safety-novelty, i.e. familiar-unfamiliar, articulated in a previous paragraph. (The image of the bellows invokes the two halves of that device — and the space between them.)

  130. Thus we trace social motion reciprocal to the feedback loop sketched in [99].

  131. A discussion of libidinal investment in narrative per se will need to wait for Chapter IV. (It will not resolve the incoherence, but does suggest another trace.)

  132. Perhaps sexual activity is (should be) incoherent. (Perhaps generation & reproduction are incoherent, i.e. include something extra & unfamiliar.[133])

  133. Biologists might call this unfamiliarity, "mutation." (I say "might" because some concepts of mutation are far more restrictive.) Please also consider non-biological reproduction, e.g. what an object requires to persist. (What does the theory of evolution require in order to persist?)

Difference into definition

This gesture returns, tangentially, to the line of thought [1] of the third opening [2]. The gesture is specific, however, and amenable to visualization [3]: Imagine sensation where everything is difference, where a vague mass of things (or people [4]) impinges upon us, without clarity or individuality, but as an uncontained [5] plurality.[6,7] We start to perceive [8] outlines or boundaries, literally images coming into visual definition, marking distinct entities. We might follow this ongoing process of definition by naming entities [9,10], or even creating definitions in the dictionary sense. This is a basic process gesture [11], and the "definition" is the irruption: It becomes a familiar entity to be used in or by other processes, etc. It forms our (as subjects [12]) sense of the world of objects in relation.

Definition not only forms our sense of distinct objects, but our sense of people: Categories & definitions — in short, typology [13] — can easily lead to stereotypes: Person A is a member of Group X; members of Group X do J; therefore, Person A must do J. The first two steps define (or reflect definitions of) Person A & Group X. If the definitions are rigorous [14], the conclusion might follow, but often enough, the resulting typology reflects our desire to simplify perception & decision.[15] Our simplifications are often wrong [16], and they have consequences: People are asked, if only implicitly [19], to conform to a type.[20] Simplification does not mean that types are unreal [23], but only incoherent [24] — their reality is the social reality of their affect on relation.[27] Such types become even more familiar when we adopt them for ourselves: They become our identities.[28] When our types (or identities) are defined both internally & externally [29], we still might disagree over the actual definition [30]: What is the essence of woman?[31] What is the nature of the black man?[32] What is it to be white?[33] What makes a bodily difference a disability?[34] (Insert these questions into the previous gesture, and we can perceive a dense network of sexualized power relations.[37,39]) We can also refuse an identity, refuse to identify: You do not define me! Trying to impose a definition on difference can lead to anger.[42] Conversely, it can lead to feelings of acceptance as part of a group.[45] Or to ambivalence about group & self [46] — and an ambivalent affective stance toward identity in general.[47] We might desire becoming imperceptible, or we might want to accept imperfect group affiliation for the purpose of collective political action.[48,49] For the latter, we might seek definition: Defined goals [50], defined setting.[51]

Do we need definition? (I will not ask about difference, since we always already have that.[53]) Political examples above [54] suggest both positive & negative answers: We might want to be part of a category in order to achieve a collective goal, and we might not want to be defined by others.[55] We might need to form a type because our minds (and the minds of people we want to persuade) function according to types & definitions: Our minds want to essentialize [58], language needs to essentialize [59,60], and so theory must interrogate definition [61], not to eliminate it [63], but to understand & use it.[64] Theory itself has had a tendency to prioritize definition over difference [65], to seek conclusions, but there are other possibilities [66], including to interrogate the present gesture: Is it superfluous? Can we simply stop? Apparently not.[67] Indeed, the gesture itself enacts a move from the unfamiliar to the familiar [68], generates (conscious) familiarity [69] mediated through time.[70] So we defamiliarize in order to reveal the movement that in turn constitutes legibility of the gesture.[71]

  1. I should probably say "curve of thought" instead. Let's make that an expression.

  2. If you took my advice, and did not read all the Openings initially, don't worry if you did not read the third yet: This discussion should still make sense.

  3. The same idea could have been described according to aural concepts, with only minor changes to the language involved. Other senses could likewise be used (such as picking out tastes or smells in a complex dish or beverage). An amodal description, where the sense modes themselves come into definition via the gesture, would be more challenging — but no less "real."

  4. As per the previous gestures, people are a significant part of (interrogating) familiarity.

  5. In other words, the sensation is open-ended. (It has no time horizon.)

  6. The notion of difference as plurality is not new: Think of differing as an open-ended process. It generates differences, but already, as per the present gesture, abstracting from the process of differing to the notion of entities (differences themselves) brings the possibility of definition. In a hypothetical process of pure differing, we can have no idea what will result, what the objects are, except as differences that might continue to differ.

  7. This process is, as I have traced elsewhere, more or less the way we learn to perceive objects (and ourselves) in the first place (in reality). In other words, it does not require a prior sense of self: A sense of sense might emerge in the gesture.

  8. I enact, once again, the shift from sensation to perception.

  9. "Entities" need not be substantives, i.e. objects, but could be processes, comparisons, analogies, etc.

  10. Language & words per se will be addressed more specifically in a subsequent gesture.

  11. We're told that this is how our minds work: We constantly create categories, entities, look for patterns, etc.

  12. In this sense, it is only a subject who provides a definition (but see [7]).

  13. I have called for a general critique of typology. Please consider this to be another small contribution. (One domain that requires more interrogation on this topic is neurology: What is inherent to the brain, and what is not? How are & can the tendencies of the brain be blurred, etc.? Such a line of inquiry might or might not yield results.[11])

  14. As a silly example, if Person A is holding a sign, and Group X is the group of people who are holding signs, then we can conclude that Person A is holding a sign. (Sufficient rigor becomes tautological, and group membership tells us nothing more than its definition.) We would need more information in order to conclude that e.g. Person A is on strike, let alone to draw further conclusions regarding Person A.

  15. There might be good reasons for simplifying perceptions & thereby making fast decisions — sometimes. (Once again, see [11]. I'll pass on the opportunity to comment on evolutionary theory again.)

  16. I believe it's important to acknowledge that we are all making various simplifications, frequently, and that these are often wrong — just not often so wrong as to be non-functional, at least for ourselves.[17] Because this sort of error is so common (i.e. [11]), one might think that acknowledging mistakes would be easy. For some people, however, it is not at all easy [18]: I have little doubt that we have all experienced this, also frequently.

  17. Simplifications can be functioning fine from our perspective, but still be a big problem for others.

  18. Why do some people have so much difficulty admitting typological errors? A number of reasons come to mind, but most will lead us straight into psychoanalysis, so too far afield for the present gesture. Some of these notions will be revisited in Chapter IV. (The whole process, at least in a vague sense, expresses a preference for the familiar over the unfamiliar.)

  19. Implicit typing can be very powerful. ("Social proof" can be most powerful when unstated, for instance. Stating it can trigger resistance.)

  20. Let me be blunt: Some people believe that e.g. racism is great for them, and want it to continue. Although I am alluding more to "well meaning" typological issues here, many people have plenty of incentive to enforce hierarchy, etc. Moreover, the differences between these two "types" of prejudice are not always clear — these days, people tend to claim the former, of course, to cover for the latter. (Let me interject something else with which most readers will be very familiar: Simple prejudice is something anyone can apply to anyone, but a structure, such as racism, requires institutional support. This is a point on which there appears to be much — often intentional — confusion, at least in contemporary USA. For example, my students have expressed difficulty understanding this point, at least as it's portrayed in the media.) So when I say that "people are asked to conform to a type" it might be anything but innocent, and moreover, might be quite negative for everyone concerned.[21]

  21. In other words, people are not infrequently forced to conform to types that they do not want, and that the people perceiving them do not like. (This is, one might imagine [22], a negative situation.)

  22. I invoke the imaginary here because the situation — as described — has been stripped of context, the context needed to interrogate the incentives to create or preserve the situation.

  23. I invoke, specifically, the Lacanian "real" here.

  24. Major social types are incoherent upon examination: Race does not have a clear genetic basis, for instance. There are not clearly two sexes, etc.[25]

  25. Some people see the existence of examples contradicting type as a reason to eliminate those examples. (See also [56].) We might even define this attitude as typological fundamentalism: People are so invested in their (familiar) types that they want to destroy anything or anyone that contradicts them. This definition fits with a more basic definition of fundamentalism as the refusal of difference (the unfamiliar).[26]

  26. For example, neoliberal exchange disavows differentiated social relationships: There is only the (abstract) market & exchange is only in the singular transaction, i.e. without history. (Phrasing of the first part of this note is borrowed from Rodríguez.)

  27. I note Alexander Weheliye's observation that race sticks to bodies (in assemblages), and Judith Butler's that gender is performative, for instance — not as opposed to [24], but in addition. (Incoherence provides an opportunity to mediate according to power relations.)

  28. See Robyn Wiegman's Object Lessons for an excellent discussion of contemporary identity formation and its implications for ideology. Wiegman takes a step beyond more traditional intersectional analysis, given (capitalizing on) the contemporary proliferation of identities.

  29. I reproduce the liberal self-other duality with this statement. Note, however, that we are indeed asked (at least partially) to define ourselves (internally). Such is the regime of self-discipline.

  30. Disagreement over accepting a type designation (identity) — at all — can be seen as the horizon of disagreement over the definition of a particular type.

  31. I won't discuss possible answers to this (absurd) question, but I do want to note my choice of language: "Essence" refers to the notion of mystery, that once we possess the secret, we possess the person (all of them).

  32. As per [31], I used "nature" to refer to a broader typing of some people as being closer to the earth. (Questions about typology can enforce typology quite broadly. People might identify with an entire stack of types after answering some questions.)

  33. Whiteness has a particular nexus with familiarity, at least in USA: It is too familiar, erased. Defamiliarizing whiteness becomes an emphasis for whiteness studies (as discussed per [28]). The social value of whiteness is conveyed in the default attention it receives, positioning anything else in comparison. (So I used very generic language for the question, unlike per [31,32].)

  34. The present gesture takes on a significant legal-political meaning with this specific question, if "disability" is a category according to which someone receives institutional support.[35] (As I write this, the new US Congress has pledged to attack disability income. These people are just as able to work as you or me, they say.[36])

  35. Note that race & gender are also, at least according to common notions, "bodily differences." (Different races & genders also receive different types of institutional support — for various meanings, e.g. whether conceived as market-based or via taxation, of "institutional support." We must, of course, include negative instances of the latter, a point on which there would be much agreement in principle, but a type-based breakdown of opinions on who is actually receiving negative institutional support. Perhaps I am using too many words to describe an obvious situation....)

  36. I note that the message about "what a body can do" can quickly become oppressive by shifting its context: In a different context, saying that people with disabilities are able to do something (specifically work, to be taken up in a later gesture) might be welcome.

  37. For example, Nash sees race itself as an erotic project (to be subverted by minoritarian control of fantasy [38]).

  38. Deleuze's "becoming minoritarian" idea leaps out here: It also undermines the logic of typology, which he would consider a majoritarian logic, i.e. a logic of same.

  39. The nexus of sex & disability is a dramatic political topic that has yet to emerge fully onto the stage of public debate. There are various precursors (erectile dysfunction ads [40], for instance) & rumblings, however. The topic might soon erupt quite spectacularly: Per [34], we can't even decide if people with disabilities should have spending money, and now they want sex? What about all the commercial products (the ads say are) required to get sex? Who is responsible for that? (It's probably very unfair for me to find this topic quite as delightful as I do, but I see a lot of potential for real change, to go along with the real unfairness. Liberal governmentality will have great difficulty digesting these questions [41], if an explosive context presents itself.)

  40. People in erectile dysfunction ads always seem to be in a good economic situation: This is one way that manufacturers distance their products from the more general realm of disability.

  41. The system (of liberal governmentality) has shown an incredible ability to assimilate dissent into itself: Baudrillard was accurate enough with this observation, but I disagree that it can assimilate absolutely anything. When I attend disability rights events (and e.g. march in the pride parade), I perceive some issues the system might never digest in its current form. We'll see (or not). Perhaps I am very wrong.

  42. Anger at the other's attempt to define us is one of the basic emotional figures of this gesture, but such anger might also be directed at our own lack of self-knowledge (i.e. unfamiliarity with ourselves) [43]: This can be especially true regarding sexual identity: Our identity (e.g. an interest in BDSM) might seem too unfamiliar, perhaps invoking fear. Definition can bring fear, even an ideology of fear.[44]

  43. In other words, we are unable to express anger (productively) toward those more powerful than us, so we direct it against ourselves.

  44. One of the outcomes of "definition" in the twentieth century, as enacted in social policy (via notions of evolution), was eugenics. So fear might be warranted. (Eugenics was devised as a way to enforce typology, as an approach to fundamentalism per [25].)

  45. Acceptance is a powerful emotional regulator.

  46. As e.g. whiteness studies shows, such ambivalence need not be confined to low status groups.

  47. Our (any) "identity" becomes an object to be considered from a distance: We other ourselves in the act of (accepting) definition.

  48. We might intentionally form, not merely accept, groups for the purpose of political action. (I'll note, loosely, Spivak's "lack of fit" idea: Even if we suspect that the group doesn't fit us, we already know that the world doesn't fit us, and so we need to enact a change.)

  49. Identity study itself becomes a kind of political action. (Consider the people who insist that such study is illegitimate.)

  50. Undefined, open-ended goals are also very possible.

  51. Perhaps I should note the politics of location: What defines a location, as opposed to e.g. unsituated relativism?[52]

  52. I'll also note that "politically correct" language is a kind of political goal that invokes a setting: From this perspective, that comment is offensive. It requires the perspective, the situation, the location, the setting (the territory, we might say): It requires a place from which to be heard.

  53. I figure difference as positive, as generative.

  54. Both forming a group for political action & refusing definition are political examples.

  55. If we want to form a category for political action, we will likely be even more sensitive to being defined by others.[56] (Definitions are typically enforced by social hierarchy, i.e. those higher in the hierarchy define those lower. But I state the obvious.)

  56. For instance, there is the "bad example" that some will use to define & critique a group. The "bad example" seems to be very effective politically, and many groups are forced to fight over what constitutes their own typicality. This phenomenon (the effectiveness, I mean), again, seems to rely on the way the mind wants to constitute types by generalizing examples.[57]

  57. I am criticized for giving too few examples, or not sufficiently concrete examples: Although I do agree that this criticism has a basis, I often find the topic of "example" itself to be problematic. So there is tension.

  58. That our minds seek to form categories & definitions seems to be true across cultures (but this notion needs more investigation per [13]). However, the sorts of categories & definitions might be different: See e.g. Manning for a preliminary consideration of how people on the autism spectrum enact the present gesture. They seem to be less in need of static perceptual types, but do define differences, at least contextually.

  59. In other words, language wants to reuse the same words. (Even reusing a person's name could be considered essentializing.)

  60. What about non-verbal theory, or (hypothetically) non-linguistic theory? (Such ideas are difficult to pursue through the written word.)

  61. Defining others [62] is a basic danger of theory. (We need not confine this remark to people: In biological theory, what defines a species?)

  62. We might even note the self-other duality itself as an irruption (culturally inflected) of the present gesture.

  63. So the present gesture acquires a mood of inevitability.

  64. I want the present article to be practical. (It will become more practical with Chapter IV.)

  65. Some theory might seek to expand definition (equivalence) — whether by e.g. homology or analogy — to the point of overwhelming difference: Everything is really the same. (Perhaps such an extreme has its own interest, as in totemism.)

  66. Poststructuralism can be viewed as a movement against foreclosing difference via definition.

  67. We can interrupt the gesture, become distracted, lose our train of thought: Distraction might be viewed as an emphasis on relation, on "the middle," rather than subject or object: Relations continually escape & multiply, intensify. Remaining in the middle, in relation, becomes distracting.

  68. As the affect of memory, the familiar provides a way to "own" our memories via definition: We define what our experience has been. In addition to the possibility of error (if we care about that), while this potential to define provides us with power & control, in the present context, it also strips power & control from the other. If we have never had that power & control ourselves, owning our memories might become a political goal. (Again, though, these processes tend to descend hierarchically.)

  69. Despite nearing the end (conclusion) of the gesture, I suggest pausing at the generation of familiarity: It arrives suddenly.

  70. The gesture would appear to be timeless in the historical sense. (Or at least I don't know how to trace a historical development.)

  71. Legibility of the gesture is not synonymous with legibility of difference. (We might want the latter to remain or become illegible, or imperceptible, in a reciprocal movement.)

Comedy jostles bodies

Comedy is one of the pillars of popular entertainment [1], and has been since at least ancient Greece.[3] It's also been interrogated by philosophers, at least since Aristotle [4,5], although it has received relatively little theoretical treatment [6] in the contemporary critical literature.[7] This absence seems striking [8], given the social & cultural significance [9,10] of humor.[11] The verb for this gesture is jostle [12], historically tied to the sport of jousting, and suggesting competition, sparring, shoving, playing, poking, etc.[13] (I am not completely pleased with the athletic violence associated in the term [14], but wanted to invoke physical imagery.[15]) The physicality of comedy — by which I mean laughter itself [16] — is invoked by taking "bodies" as object here. There is "physical comedy," but even the most linguistic comedy can bring laughter [17], regardless of whether language-based comedy is considered more sophisticated.[18] However, intellectual comedy still plays upon bodily difference, if not explicitly, then as reflected in status, material conditions, etc. It is this latter — this "jostling" or movement of bodies [19] — that the present gesture seeks to interrogate.

The realization of comedy [21] — or laughter (per [17]) — is the irruption: Humor erupts [22], and humor plays on the familiar & unfamiliar: A joke might defamiliarize, or ask us to consider familiarity differently. More technically [23], comedy deterritorializes and then (typically) reterritorializes: This basic form is the context for what follows (and I'll return to the familiar & unfamiliar, specifically [24], later). The reterritorialization often follows the deterritorialization [25] immediately: Just as our conceptions are becoming confused by the (supposed [26]) cognitive shift or incongruity of a joke, they are placed firmly into a new context. What typically distinguishes the joke from some other kind of shift or incongruity is that the ret follows the det (see [25]) closely.[27] In other words, without the ret, the det might lead anywhere — and sustain discomfort: The laughter comes with the ret, as release. The det-ret pair [28] functions especially powerfully in a group context: We become (are validated as) a part of a group in our shared laughter.[29] This, in turn, makes us feel good (at least typically [30]), more relaxed.[31,32] Such (potential to) comfort is powerful, and the power of ret is to situate us (together [33]). What about det with no ret (signified by lack of laughter, perhaps)?[34] This type of comedy exists, and is perhaps becoming more widespread [36]: We might laugh (to ourselves [38]) at people not knowing when to laugh, at not being part of the group [39,40], or at deterritorialization per se. This last is more interesting (see [5]).

So who or what is the object of det, and who or what is the object of ret? If we consider these questions — including the potential for eliding det — we can situate a joke politically. (Although it is often a person or group of people who are the objects, particularly of det, note that the objects might be something else entirely: The form accommodates abstraction.[42,43]) It is not enough to ask who or what, however: We must also ask how [46]: Someone might be the object of det, but to where is the ret? Is the motion good or bad for them?[47] Or lateral [48] or irrelevant?[49] (Even amid some jostling, comedy need not change anything.[50]) We might call this the context of a joke, but it is more than context, it is the actual motion [51] involved: The motion might be from one context (or territory) to another, so unless det invokes multiple contexts [52], some shared context is already assumed [53]: Do we laugh at the same jokes?[54] Do we appreciate the same philosophy?[55] In our hierarchical society, contexts for humor are often hierarchical [56]: One group laughs at another [57,58]: Does that reinforce social status, or deterritorialize such status? Does such a det obscure status or destabilize status? Again, to where is the ret? Social criticism has often relied on irony, and some authors distinguish irony from humor per se.[59] In an era of pervasive governmentality, irony has become without object, detached, i.e. without ret.[60] I return to the idea of laughing at det minus ret (deterritorialization per se): Perhaps this is the best we can do sometimes [61], lacking a place to ret: Det becomes line of flight, with ret as capture. Such emotional figuration might vary considerably: Low energy relaxation [62] (of laughter) to fear & anger [30] to feelings of superiority [64], even to a frenzy of energy release — that might lead anywhere.[65]

Comedy suggests a playful [14] orientation or mood [66], but that need not be the case. As det-ret, comedy can be very serious: Its role in contemporary governmentality might exceed tragedy [67], and even religion. Freud relates it to an "economy" of affect.[68] Taking an evolutionary approach [70], Bergson says that humor enhances mental flexibility.[71] Although we obviously value humor, we worry about it too: Is it shameful to find something funny?[73] Is mockery really in fun?[74] Is cultivating disinterest (per [49]) healthy sometimes?[75] Might a joke move us from disinterest to interest instead?[76,77] Those questions aside, like the previous gesture, comedy — or at least laughter [78] — takes on an air of inevitability [79] and timelessness: Humor is an aspect of humanity, and the current gesture cannot be marginalized. Returning to the Chapter orientation, let me rephrase our theme: Jokes make something familiar seem unfamiliar, but then we learn it's actually familiar (perhaps in a different way): Det mediates familiarity, and ret generates it — at least canonically.[80] It might be tempting to view humor dialectically: Mediation is followed by generation (dialectical progress [81]).[83] Comedy, though, also resists dialectics, perhaps specifically.[84] Comedy even resists familiarity [85], to an extent.[86]

  1. Entertainment can be considered to be quite a broad category in the contemporary context: Comedy is also a major part of commercial advertising, for instance. (Television insists that e.g. automotive insurance is funny [2], at least here in California).

  2. Why is automotive insurance so funny? Well, many of the ads are directed at young drivers. You pay money to the insurance company, and hope you never need to receive service. And you probably won't receive service, or at least not what you had hoped or expected. So that's funny, I guess. (The "funny insurance ad" may have already peaked as I write this, as there is a growing body of ads emphasizing earnest friendliness.)

  3. In the contemporary era, a pillar of popular entertainment is, by definition, a pillar of governmentality. What was this dynamic a couple of thousand years ago? (I will not undertake such an investigation here, although "comedy" per se supposedly originated with bands of Dionysian revelers. Later concepts such as "bread & circuses" could be cited too.)

  4. Aristotle's book on comedy is, famously, lost. (And it does have precedents.)

  5. I should also note some non-European examples, particularly from East Asia: Some classic Buddhist or Taoist philosophy could be considered jokes.

  6. I mention theoretical treatment, broadly, because discussion of specific examples is fairly widespread, although usually within the domain of literary or dramatic criticism. From a theoretical standpoint, it is usually people making the same observations, repeatedly & separately.

  7. So there was relatively little formal material to consult for the present project, beyond isolated analytical examples. (Discussion of examples is also widespread & frequent among the general public, however, far outside of any "official" domain.)

  8. Humor has long been a weapon of critical authors facing repressive regimes, so explaining humor may have impeded its effectiveness as criticism — or at least the authors' ability to continue living.

  9. I say "significance" very intentionally, as humor is literally signifying. (I say "social & cultural" to refer both to our more specific context, and to the social role of humor more broadly.) In that sense, per Morreall et al., humor is never irrational. (This from writers who treat the ratio as an absolute good.)

  10. The specific character of racist, sexist, heterosexist, ableist, etc. jokes would appear to be important to these strands of critical inquiry, although it has often been sufficient simply to note their oppressive use.

  11. I titled the present gesture with the classical Greek term "comedy," but will also use other terms such as humor or jokes (mostly) interchangeably. (The medieval term "humor" — from Latin, moisture — has its distinct interest too. And "joke" relates, linguistically, to the gesture's verb.)

  12. I am probably violating my stated plans for these gestures by using the verb form "jostles." However, that was a decision I made here to position the "angle" of the gesture distinctly from some others. One thing to note regarding the verb, though, is that it is applied in the gesture statement — and that this gesture can be read as a statement is the possible violation — to a passive subject: Comedy itself is not an agent. So when I say that "comedy" acts, the reader should ask who is really acting. (There is an expressed passivity here, and the stated observation is from a distance.)

  13. The words describing "jostle" are taken from the OED entry.

  14. We will interrogate "play," from another angle, in a subsequent gesture.

  15. Physical imagery has long been incorporated into linguistic games around the topic of "wit" — parrying, comebacks, etc.

  16. Morreall points out that many cross-cultural treatments of comedy are, more specifically, treatments of laughter: Laughter is not an abstraction, but rather a specific human physical response.

  17. We might want to consider the response "that's funny" without laughter: Many people, such as comedian Jerry Seinfeld, have stated that this means something is not actually funny. Hopefully my discussion of the two motions involved in comedy will help to clarify this point. (We might consider the statement to be another, weak, attempt at a reterritorialization that had failed.)

  18. The unsophisticated reputation of physical comedy, such as slapstick, can be related to intellectual snobbery. (Everyone does have a body, even if some prefer to act as though it's otherwise — for a variety of reasons, headlined by mind-body dualism.)

  19. For the present purposes, a seeming non-movement, i.e. holding a body where it already is, is embraced under the term "movement." Absent such force, the body would be elsewhere, via its own movement (inertia): So we can think of negative movement: Stay right where you are![20] (We might want to call this "capture.")

  20. I quote a typical sign off message for initiating a television advertising break from an earlier era....

  21. We might want to consider "subconscious" comedy, but that is not the focus here: I'm talking about when people decide that something is funny.

  22. The image of eruption fits humor, with its laughter, well. The eruption becomes the consummation of the joke itself.

  23. Perhaps it's wrong of me to say "more technically" when I'm writing about familiarity per se. "In other words" might have been a better transition.

  24. It's easy enough to note that, at least on the relevant planes, deterritorializing is akin to defamiliarizing & reterritorializing to familiarizing elsewhere — more or less.

  25. Because I get tired of typing the finger-twisting pair of reterritorialization & deterritorialization, I am (only in the present gesture discussion) going to use "ret" & "det" instead. Although this might be considered pure laziness (and I could solve that via automation, if I chose), I believe the length of these words interferes with their effectiveness in a comedic context: We need single syllable "punchlines" here. Moreover, please indulge me in letting det & ret be both noun & verb.

  26. Many jokes play on standard tropes, rather than any real incongruity. In this case, the det isn't real, and the ret becomes more of a retrenchment (or refrain, to extend the Deleuzian vocabulary).

  27. In something like a pun (a language game), the ret is simultaneous with the det, effected in the same statement: And a pun typically has only one statement (where the ret conforms to a language trick, often homophone); any tension arises from the mental delay for the audience.

  28. Note that capitalism itself functions according to a det-ret pair: Absolute deterritorialization of value, reterritorialized on capital. (And as per the remainder of the present paragraph, if we do not accept the ret, we will certainly be uncomfortable.)

  29. The simultaneity of group laughter is powerful evidence that everyone is in/on the same context. However, the others need not be present: We can feel a part of a group laughing by assuming the laughter of others elsewhere. This can be powerful enough, particularly if it reinforces other physical (proximal) experiences.

  30. Listening to other people laugh at jokes we do not find funny does not make us feel good: This is obvious, and leads to feelings such as alienation, disgust, condescension (which I guess can feel good), fear, etc.

  31. Some writers discuss comedic relaxation according to bodily energy levels. (See also [62].) Feeling part of a group is a feeling of safety, at least when it's the dominant (or only) group present, i.e. the one telling the jokes.

  32. We will interrogate relaxation further, in a different context, in a subsequent gesture.

  33. We need no sense of self to participate in group laughter. It might simply happen, and if it does, the feeling of belonging will be activated. (Of course, if we do not laugh....) We might lose a sense of self — enjoyably so — in such a situation.

  34. I should note an implication of ret situating people together: They were previously apart, meaning that det functions differentially: It may apply to only part of the audience (or people not in the audience [35]), or to different people in different ways. (It could also apply to "everyone" in the same way, i.e. we remain together in ret, but in a different place.)

  35. Applying det outside of our audience raises obvious political issues, but even confining ourselves to the audience, the det-ret pair can be highly political.

  36. Some people say that the young generation of comics does not know how to tell a joke [37], but we've seen a dangling det before: with Steven Wright, for instance (to date myself).

  37. Morreall — whose life experience, as I have already mentioned, must be rather different from mine — remarks that only children enjoy incongruity for itself. (I find the remark striking, and also very wrong.)

  38. Laughing to oneself does seem to be a real phenomenon, but let's not simply equate it with physical laughter. One might consider it to be a kind of transcendental move, and that's not necessarily conducive to (non-hierarchical) social relations (with those around us — which we might not want).

  39. Comedy that intends to separate people, even in its own audience, is not new either: Laugh at the person next to you for being confused!

  40. If, upon a retelling, we are scorned for having laughed, we can retort, "You had to be there!" In other words, we start to mediate our group affiliations [41]: If you were there (in the group), you would have thought it was funny too. (This can be both true & awkward at once.)

  41. Nothing interrogates group affiliation quite like comedy. (And Morreall believes that laughter halts sex? I find this disturbing.)

  42. The Deleuzian terminology accommodates abstraction, particularly at the systemic level. (I'll spare the reader more about planes of consistency etc., but the planar imagery is very much implied by the det-ret concept.)

  43. Should I apologize for not giving examples of jokes?[44] As per the previous gesture, I find "examples" too problematic — not for the form, but for their accidental qualities: It would require far more space to treat examples properly.

  44. I'll give a very simple slapstick (visual) example: Det: Using a rake as a comb? That's crazy! Ret: Oh, it doesn't really work. (This is a stabilizing example, as per [50]. And most viewers probably don't take the rake seriously in the first place, meaning that its use is already ret — as stupid — relative to the context set for the character....[45])

  45. The reader might want to consider recursive humor. (It's one way to embed clichés in a larger form, i.e. to make a refrain appear to involve det and so invoke laughter.)

  46. We can also ask who is performing the det-ret pair (i.e. who is the subject to go with the object?), but unless that person is also being affected by the det or ret — and they very well might be, in which case, we'll consider them part of the object — it's secondary to this interrogation: We're considering the jostling of bodies more than who jostles them (per [12]).

  47. In other words, considering territories, is the territory someone leaves in the det better or worse than the one they join in the ret? For example, is it empowering? (Although that term has problems, I'll use it for illustration.) Is it materially better? (And "material" has problems too.) Do they prefer it?

  48. Here I make an explicit reference to social hierarchy, which is often invoked in jokes, whether in the joke itself, or in the result of the joke, or both. (Note, of course, that one can invoke hierarchy in a joke for the purpose of undermining hierarchy — or for the purpose of strengthening it.)

  49. Some comedy promotes disinterest: The det-ret takes us from an "interested" position to a disinterested one. (And let us recall that it is "cool" to be disinterested.) Some writers call this type of motion aestheticization, but as the reader might imagine, I do not appreciate that idea. It would seem, at some level, to marginalize art itself (although the evocation of distance is apt). However, although a disinterested ret might proclaim irrelevancy, the situation might be anything but irrelevant for its objects.

  50. Comedy has often been seen as a stabilizing social force (in part because of the joke-cliché), and is certainly used that way under the current governmental regime. It can be very stabilizing: Half-hearted or empty det to serious ret (per [26]), ret as return to a territory one never leaves. (We might want to view that as a "change" or movement, however, per [19], as the territory is reinforced.)

  51. I am emphasizing motion here. Elsewhere, I might have made this observation in terms of relation. (Motions illuminate relations, make them legible: Think of gravity as a relation, and the accompanying motion of objects.)

  52. Det might invoke multiple contexts (per [34]), but these are multiple territories, i.e. with some internal consistency, and not a diffuse set of possibilities. In other words, a joke might invoke three groups, not a million individuals.

  53. On a more ominous note, a possible shared context can be interrogated via humor — and a person rejected accordingly. (To turn to the dramatic, is this not a trope of spy stories? One cannot fake humor!)

  54. Having a similar sense of humor is often important for friendships & sexual partnerships. It establishes a common ground, even if other aspects of one's lives seem different. (Consider e.g. the way a "soulmate" laughs at one's jokes in a romantic comedy.)

  55. Any writing of this sort assumes an audience, or attempts to create an audience out of more minimal assumptions, but some sort of shared context must exist — the language itself, if nothing else. The idea of philosophy independent of context — even if it seeks to interrogate what a pan-human context might be — is as absurd as a joke independent of context (situation).

  56. It is redundant to say that a hierarchical society has hierarchical contexts or territories. An exception would be more notable.

  57. If laughing is an indication of relaxation (or even if it's not), one group is typically more relaxed than another. Such comfort (or lack of stress) proceeds hierarchically as well (as many health studies demonstrate).

  58. Per [8], do the powerful possess the lived context to understand the joke? Perhaps not, since comedy might draw from a variety of experiences, experiences that only low status people possess. (Someone might simply tell high status people that they are the butt of jokes, which can be enough to bring anger.)

  59. Deleuze, following Aristotle, treats humor as directed toward those lower in status ("punch down" in some terminology — of which I do not know the origin), and following Kierkegaard, treats irony as directed toward those higher in status ("punch up") — or toward "the system" in abstract. Regarding irony, Deleuze observes that one can break a system by obeying it (with its inherent contradictions) "too well."

  60. And so we find people lamenting the fate (overuse) of "irony."

  61. To e.g. a Buddhist, there is no qualification: We lose attachments in det, and learn to see the world for what it is. Why would we want to ret?

  62. We can conceive of comedy & relaxation via energy states akin to those of chemical reactions: Det is activation energy, raising energy levels (tension), and then the audience moves to a lower (absolute [63]) energy state in ret, signified by laughter. (If this model makes sense, and if we're already relaxed, then what is the point of joking? Perhaps there is still some tension, or perhaps there is no energy minimum. More likely, energy figuration is not so consistent across det-ret movement.)

  63. Positing an "absolute" energy scale seems crazy in this context, but I note the idea in parallel with chemistry, and simply as something to consider. Can we say, in any general sense, what our energy levels are? (We could consider arousal, as affect.... The notion invokes multiple interfaces for me, and these likely do not align.) Perhaps. (Our culture would surely use heart rate/pulse.)

  64. Per [62], one way to interrogate superiority is to ask who is more relaxed. (This is the "cool" of adolescent — and many other — social relations.)

  65. Accordingly, governmentality requires the ret. (Absolute deterritorialization is an important part of capitalist capture per [28], but there's no capture without the ret.)

  66. "Humor" in the medieval sense indicates mood — various moods. So humor (in the contemporary sense) affects humors (in the medieval sense).

  67. Tragedy is not our topic, but I'll note comedian Dave Allen's observation that tragedy plus time equals comedy. (There's some truth there, regarding distance and perspective, but it's not an observation I can endorse in a general sense. Indeed, it's probably a better — more general — observation regarding tragedy than it is regarding comedy.)

  68. Freud's idea of an economy [69] relates to [63]: It becomes about the expenditure of energy. The idea is one-sided, from my perspective, because it neglects the generation of energy. (I hope I've not just endorsed supply-side economics!) There's also an underlying dualism that reflects an obsession with the (pathological) poles, aggression & depression. There are many other ways to map the psyche (if it needs mapping).

  69. An "economy" was quite a fashionable concept at the time. Today an economy tends to connote something far more specific, but it's worth noting the general idea and how it relates (or interrelates) to the development of many modern system theories. Criticizing economics, as in Remède de Fortune, thus inflects critical theory more broadly.

  70. I gave some thoughts on evolution with an earlier gesture. That all human traits must have been selected for, somehow, is no longer a dominant biological view. (Some traits might come along incidentally, or belong to circumstances that no longer apply, etc.) So such an explanation seems unnecessary: We might simply enjoy it. (Would that be so wrong?)

  71. For Kant, humor was a play of mind & words akin to the play of fortune — an interesting choice, given my figuring of Fortune. (And Kant seems to endorse "intellectual snobbery" per [18].) Humor has a touch of randomness (perhaps as det)? It amuses me to read this from such a rationalist — something seemingly random might be very deterritorializing from that perspective (with ret always already implied to the same territory). Perhaps there is a "found" (or accidental [72]) effect that can be quite compelling, but much humor is carefully constructed (or, even more often, repeated as refrain).

  72. The "funny accident" has become its own comedic genre. As the Kant association implies, it requires some sort of rationalist context, however: How else does one know what is an accident? (The ret often emphasizes this point, perhaps after further det, yielding a different perspective for [43].)

  73. It is tempting not to note Schadenfreude, specifically, at all. (It is very widespread. Was it always?)

  74. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" is a cliché for a reason. Moreover, studies show that people who imitate others are more admired. Transition into "mockery" is not always clear.

  75. Disinterest toward what? Feeling part of a group of disinterested people does appear to be comforting (low stress).

  76. Being made the butt of a joke is certainly one way to interest us.

  77. Spurring us to action would suggest a destabilizing mode for humor. One way this could be done, according to the model I've already sketched, is to use ret to form or stabilize a group that is marginalized. Group solidarity can then prompt action that might be considered destabilizing overall. (In other words, humor can become ideological.)

  78. Although he mentions it hypothetically, Morreall does not bother to ask people with disabilities about laughter. And I do not know, either, how or if e.g. someone on a respirator laughs. I imagine this topic is covered somewhere, and it seems worthwhile for interrogating the general topic of humor.

  79. It's obviously not inevitable that any of us will laugh at any particular moment, and sometimes circumstances argue strongly against it, but laughter does seem common enough to be inherent to humanity as a whole. It won't be disappearing any time soon. (Perhaps this attempted clarification between the group humanity and an individual remains awkward. Are there individuals who never laugh?)

  80. I have already discussed various ways that det or ret can be used differently: Ret might generate little familiarity if it simply stabilizes the current territory (in which case, the familiarity generated is with respect to the ret motion itself). Det might not mediate anything if it's a cliché. Etc.

  81. The notion that humor demands more humor, that it might lead to a frenzy of energy release (as I put it) [82] can follow from a suggestion of dialectical progress. After all, the dialectic is said to continue onward, relentlessly.[45]

  82. I can suggest a different sort of energy release, if we consider a situation where det is always exceeding ret, or in other words, that ret does not fully resolve the tension of det. So posit a partial ret that is also already partially deterritorialized, invoking a chain. (Although I am using unfamiliar language, this is a real situation: Issues raised in det are not necessarily resolved, even if principles of governmentality insist upon it.)

  83. Disgust resists familiarity in the dialectical sense. (Disgust at jokes is also a real situation, as in [82].)

  84. We might det dialectics (specifically) — or any concept. (What if we det det? This would lead us to a kind of chain we might not consider to be humor, but perhaps we should.)

  85. Resistance to familiarity might suggest resistance to immanence, i.e. desire for transcendence: Comedy takes us away from our current situation, if only for a moment. (And so we might compare it to religion.)

  86. To some extent, comedy will tackle (or resist, or jostle) anything. However, as we've seen, much comedy actually functions to reinforce the familiar.

Work cleaving life

The word "cleaving" probably stands out most in this gesture title, so let's begin there: Cleaving is something done with a tool, a sharp tool. Something cloven might still cohere, or at least the halves [1] continue to be next to each other. I'll approach the tool discussion implicitly, but what of the cloven entities continuing next to each other? I began with "cleaving" because we already know what work & life are — i.e., they are familiar. But do we? (Note that the gesture title can also be read with "work" as command [3], rather than noun.[4]) What is work? Is it the irruption under discussion? Yes & no: Although "work," despite all its familiarity, is the least coherent notion here, and we can posit that people always had "life" [5], life irrupts from cleavage too: Life itself is changed with the irruption of work.[6] So life & work form a very familiar duality.[7] For instance, we're told, literally, that our days & weeks — one after another, for decades — are cloven into time for work & time for life: Work cleaves time itself.[8] This gesture not only produces (organizes) industrial time, but organizes production hierarchically: Labor becomes a class [10], and organizing labor [11] raises the body of Marxist theory: I will continue through the lens of The Problem with Work [12], and specifically Weeks's project to "map" work: To put it more naïvely, what is good or bad about work? Let me conclude this opening paragraph with a little survey of observations around that question. In the most primitive of conditions, we (must) acquire food & tools [13] for ourselves.[14] Perhaps tasks are differentiated socially. Perhaps people help others.[15] Enter more organization, more technology, more hierarchy — work becomes "alienated" from supporting oneself directly, whether because one cannot consume one's own product [16] or because someone else takes some or all of it. Work becomes a social function.[17] (Weber asked if we work to live, or live to work?[18]) Work brings modernization [19], we're told, and Lenin claimed that the cure for social ills is more work. Even in the 1960s, writing from the alienation standpoint, Fromm asserted work as the basic "formation" of man [20]: We must each control our own work [21], and so ourselves. These late modern thoughts continue to assert a separate value for work. (Let's linger there for a moment.) In our era of labor surplus, having work, work itself, becomes a privilege.[23] Productivity itself — production of some good or service being one definition for work [24] — becomes an orientation, a mode of existence.[25] (Twisting Weber, we not only produce to live, we produce surplus — excess of work over life.) Work becomes a value, not only for its product, but for its (hierarchical) social role: Now people with disabilities [26] demand [29] work.[30]

Any duality cascades into hierarchy [34], and social observations (such as the previous) become difficult to make [35]: They require more & more context, or at least a different context. To put things (overly) simply yet again, moving to a money economy [36] means that the elite now require (lots of) money.[37] In other words, working for money [38] means that the elite now "work" for money: That "work" has been defined (or redefined [39]) in this manner yields its reversal into a kind of status.[40] This is the context we must consider when Weeks (or Lazzarato [41]) suggests anti-work politics, or a refusal to work.[42] That appropriating the work of others is how the wealthy increase their wealth fits nicely with, in turn, social insistence on work as status [44,49]: Work for us, or else.[50,51] So does working increase power, or does working decrease power? It can do either, and often both at once.[52] Ngai figures the "zany" [53] as a marker of this contradiction [54]: Zaniness becomes a way of relating to the modern world [55], as we become both the subjects & objects of the present gesture: We work not only at cleaving our lives, but at cleaving social relations into hierarchy [56], at objectifying ourselves.[57] The zany figures the unfamiliar as familiar [58] — a familiar performance of the unfamiliar.[59] While zaniness is the mood or tone of this gesture, it can evoke a variety of emotional responses: Indeed, the gesture speaks of life itself, and inflects our sense of self.[60] Thus far, I've considered "life" only biologically, but what is the life referenced here? Even Weeks's chapter four title, "hours for what we will" [61], suggests a concept of life, opposed to work, that continues to reflect cleavage.[62] Free time might also be feared.[63] What should we be doing?[64] If we've been trained to be responsible [65], what is our responsibility [66] minus work? I suggest that we must consider the (hypothetical) uncloven life, untangle the present gesture [67], make it superfluous [68], or at least a thing of the past.[69] No gesture, no irruption, no work? There is a familiar, mechanical retort: Then no one would do anything, and we'd all starve or otherwise perish. Although many people are disgusted by the system, and don't want to work, it does not require much time with small children in order to observe that they all want to help & contribute [70]: That desire might be (metaphorically, perhaps) beaten out of us, but it is a deep one, an aspect of human sociality itself.[71] If people want to help, is their "help" actually helpful? This brings us to notions of merit, something the present system supposedly rewards.[72]

We want important social functions [73] to be performed [74] by people who are good at performing them. We like to learn & improve generally.[75] If it is not to be work that produces a way to measure & reward, then how are these preferences respected? First, despite the refrain to the contrary, these preferences are not typically respected now: Toxic work, work that is harmful to others [76], geared toward accumulation — or simply making a living [77] — is tolerated, if not encouraged, by our economic system, and excellence is rewarded within limited domains only (per [72]).[79] Moreover, people's ideas on what needs doing are always in excess of what the system is able to structure [80], so no (external) reward (system) can possibly align consistently.[81] What is unalienated labor? In a very real sense, it is people doing what they believe needs doing, as a basic part of their lives [82]: In that mode, self-direction itself [83] is reward. It is very easy to return to the gesture's duality at this point [84], but let us consider something else: Is making art work? I claim that the uselessness of art [85] is specifically a critique of (industrial [86]) work.[87] If we want to negate the present gesture, perhaps art becomes the model for activity.[88,89] If we want to consider the idea that an artistic society could be a post-work society [96], we might want to consider the (cleaving) tool of the present gesture explicitly: Lazzarato (per [41]) singles out debt as that tool.[97,98] (His is a semiotic approach, i.e. not beginning from the violence that is also a part of the disciplinary apparatus or assemblage.) You owe [99], and so you work (for us [100]) — or else we'll destroy your sense of self: And so we return to the construction of the contemporary subject.

  1. One could cleave again & again, presumably into many parts, but prototypical images of something cloven are in half. This association fits the present gesture well. (Whether an association with "cleavage" specifically fits, I'm not so sure.[2])

  2. I will use the noun "cleavage" in the general sense, however. If the reader wants to think of breasts pressed together, this being by far the most common usage of the term where I live, you may do so. (Maybe we're queering cleavage here.)

  3. Work as command: This is the basic, hierarchical command of capitalist & many other social systems. (For instance, one can speak of a "command economy" — a phenomenon that is supposedly elsewhere.)

  4. So "work cleaving life" becomes a command to continue cleaving one's life, cleavage enacted in turn by work itself.

  5. Being alive, in the biological sense, is a reductionist option for the term "life." (I will not interrogate this basic notion much here.)

  6. One can think of cleavage as the opposite of dialectic synthesis (i.e. as negative dialectics, per this interrogation): Although life is the original term, it becomes residual to itself once cloven. Here we want to consider this residual life in its relation to the irruption of work.

  7. I grew up in a working class family, doing construction & farming. Although these jobs involve seasonal variation (in what can be done or needs doing), and so are conducive to more layers of rhythm than factory work, I was raised with the notion that there were specific times for work: And work always came first. At least in some respects (but not all), I believe that this was a very common experience. So the writer, and likely the reader in many cases, is suffering from an excess of familiarity with this topic. (Our task becomes to defamiliarize, to perceive the cleavage & irruptions.)

  8. The industrial work day prompted standardization of units of time: Hours, minutes, etc. Striation of the days & weeks [9] was developed out of concern for "efficiency," etc. Many people today seem to believe that this system always existed, but both its novelty & the extent to which it affects how people feel time should not be underestimated. It seems so familiar, as the texture of so many lives.

  9. Striation of time was constructed transcendentally, i.e. according to an external standard. Such a standard was imported directly into physics & related scientific investigations, as a natural — i.e. always already existing — scale against which to measure. There is nothing natural or already existing about these scales: There is a wide variety of overlapping & inconsistent cycles in the world; interacting in consonance & dissonance, we might say.

  10. I have, more or less, inverted the historical order of the creation of a labor class & the creation of industrial time, for purposes of this discussion. (One could argue about when either of those processes actually started.) The processes should not be viewed as wholly separable, however.

  11. Note the two senses of "organizing labor" used in close succession: Labor organized (imposed) from without (hierarchically), and labor organized from within (immanently). Political implications for the immanent-transcendent duality follow.

  12. I like having a specific text, in this case Kathi Weeks's, around which to orient a section. As regular readers will have realized, even if a text serves as orientation, I do not necessarily follow it. I'll go my own way, but Weeks does provide exactly the sort of historical discussion that I am trying not to dwell on here. As the mention of Marx suggests, it's a large topic, from which I'll take what I need to interrogate familiarity.

  13. I mention technology to broadly include shelter, clothing, etc.

  14. Such a notion, as I've presented it, lacks any exposition of the ways societies organize under so-called primitive conditions. Although I feel obliged to include such an observation here, it should bring only more questions.

  15. Of course, babies & young children cannot possibly procure food & supplies by themselves, so such help happens in all human societies. (I do not intend to imply that helping ends with small children.)

  16. One's work product might be of no use by itself, because it relies on other products in order to form a useful assemblage.

  17. "Work becomes a social function" is a partial rephrasing of the present gesture.

  18. A question about the primacy of living or working with respect to the other implicitly accepts the duality.

  19. Such an observation is made from a perspective that views "modernization" as inherently good, of course. (The notion is that everyone in the world should be like Western Europe, or a particular, perhaps idealistic strand of European thought, and so it's another assertion of hierarchy.)

  20. Sloterdijk's ideas on ascetology — the study of how people seek to improve or purify themselves — can be viewed as an extension of Fromm's observation.

  21. Today we get self-help articles (aimed at e.g. technology workers) about making choices within the social-work (this hybrid being rather different from "social work") hierarchy in order to accomplish our personal goals. Note the partial correspondence with [11]: We accept the system [22], and focus on our own choices within it. (The latter is also a description of "choice feminism.") Some people consider this to be taking control of their own work. Certainly some people are better at playing that game than others, for all kinds of reasons.

  22. Labor organizers do not necessarily accept the system — hence, partial correspondence — and in the case of some authors already cited, canonically did not. Rather, for them, organization was a step toward changing the system (even if they continued to value cleavage of "work" per se).

  23. Not only are social privileges associated with pay for work, but work itself yields a feeling of pride for those who possess it — at least sometimes. (This is a feedback loop, and it very well might not function as stated, for instance if the pay yields few privileges: It's still quite possible to feel worse about oneself via alienated work.)

  24. I will not define work explicitly, but rather let it emerge from familiarity & indirect discussion. However, one might also want to consider e.g. immaterial labor, absent production per se. (For instance, we could say that self-discipline is the work required of us by governmentality, although it's also conventional to say that it produces the self, i.e. that it is productive.)

  25. As I read Latour's modes of existence, the notion of productivity, as I've introduced it here, would fall under the heading of "preposition." An orientation toward productivity affects how we perceive subsequent activity. For many people, this orientation is pervasive, i.e. it colors everything they do. (Relaxation becomes a way to facilitate more work, for example.)

  26. Within this context, one could define "people with disabilities" as those people possessing some trait that is said to be inappropriate for (or, an impediment to) being a good worker [27]: Such a trait could be a physical limitation, problem with focus, drug addiction, etc. (Note that, very obviously, someone might possess some negative trait in this sense, and also possess other traits that are very conducive to "good work" — desire, for instance. Although such a situation is not difficult to observe, the definitions are typically made more reductively. In other words, some trait dominates perception. It need not have anything to do with actual productivity.[28])

  27. Might we use this definition, in turn, to define work (as distinct from life)? Work is the thing by which our personal traits are judged? (Note how this already implies a splintering of the person.)

  28. I should also remark on this notion of "actual productivity." Although we are accustomed to collapsing such notions into single (usually quantitative) metrics, ideas like quantity & quality do not necessarily align in production outcomes any more than do someone's individual traits or qualities as a worker.

  29. A demand for work is rather different from trying to do whatever work one needs to do. (Imagine a feudal peasant demanding work. The reader can analogize a demand for land at their own peril.)

  30. People with disabilities (along with e.g. children & the elderly) are part of a group that can abstain from work without necessarily being (further [31]) stigmatized for that choice. (Of course, abstaining from work does not typically [32] bring the privileges associated with work per [23].) So the demand is somewhat different in character from that of those who are considered to be able-bodied, although I do not want to overstate, particularly regarding any "line" between someone with a disability and someone without, since such distinctions can be very political. Being unable to work (for whatever reason [33]) while being told that there is nothing preventing you from working is often a very unpleasant scenario, however.

  31. If one is already at the bottom of the social hierarchy anyway, and these groups might or might not be, there is no status left to lose.

  32. It is probably also worth noting that, for instance, "retired" people are accorded privileges: They retain the privileges they had while working, perhaps, or even acquire new ones. (These notions are hierarchically inflected, and while I do want to move this discussion along, I also feel compelled to make these notes in order to mediate against what could otherwise be overly simplistic observations.)

  33. According to the questions of [27], focusing on outcomes, e.g. race can be viewed as disabling. (I realize that this is an outrageous suggestion.)

  34. I discuss the relation between duality & hierarchy extensively in Hierarchy as rupture.

  35. Hopefully my little survey did not add to confusion on the topic. (Please see Weeks for a historical survey with more context & discussion, although not about disability. I'm fully to blame for the latter comments.) The brevity might not be a strength here, given the enormous amount of propaganda on this topic. Nonetheless, it is not my intention to focus on such a survey.

  36. Note that, per Graeber, historically, the introduction of money into an economy was typically related to military conquest: One pays one's soldiers in the same currency that one collects in taxes (perhaps leaving the population to work out the intervening exchange for themselves). Without soldiers (or at least a standing army), rulers might be content receiving taxes in the form of agricultural & craft products themselves, plus work stints on public projects.

  37. As we have discussed extensively, the shift to money, and in particular into its neoliberal "fundamentalist" mode, posits a unitary measure of value. A single measure of value, a notion closely related to fundamentalism itself, is at least arguably the money economy's most affective concept.

  38. "Working for money" is opposed to a subsistence economy where one grows or makes what one needs, and pays some in taxes (in kind). As per [36], a need for money in the general population was often linked to modern-style tax demands.

  39. I am opposing this notion of work to a situation where the elite do not work (and are proud not to work, work being for peasants & servants).

  40. The Marxist emphasis on the value of work is likely, at least partly, responsible for this change in status. (Note how easily such a notion is incorporated into the social hierarchy.)

  41. Lazzarato's Governing by Debt appeared in English in 2015, and I did not take time to read it yet, but I did skim it very briefly. (Based on what he's already written, the authors he references, and what I've already written, I think I can guess his main points: The suggestion that contemporary governmentality is focused on debt, and maybe always has been, is a good one.) Anyway, his concluding chapter, "The Refusal of Work," presumably makes the political point.

  42. Let me suggest two major premises for anti-work politics: First, there is refusing social hierarchy, and in turn refusing to create more wealth for the wealthy. Second, and related to the way I've phrased the latter, there's the fact that much contemporary work is simply in excess of (or even counter to [43]) what anyone needs otherwise in their lives. (The latter development we might attribute, perhaps simplistically, to technology, but the trend only seems to accelerate.)

  43. This is what I call "toxic work." Examples include environmental destruction and harassment activities, such as spam & telemarketing.

  44. I don't know if this is as common elsewhere in the world, but here in USA, the question, "What do you do?" is ubiquitous, particularly of men.[45] I hear it with great regularity: For instance, last night, I simply changed the subject when a stranger asked me. Over the weekend, I answered "I never know how to answer that question." Sometimes, if pressed, I might say I run a music foundation, or that I "mostly" do community volunteering (although I am doing less of that lately, at least for now), or sometimes I'll respond, "I guess I don't do anything." (For a while, I would sometimes answer "I do diversity training," since that can lead to interesting conversations, but that was something I only did occasionally — and my critical style is less desirable now, with the booming local economy[48].) I'd like to have a simple answer to this question, just because it is so common, and I don't (usually) want to make a fuss, but I still have no idea what to say. Well, that's me, who I am, someone who doesn't know what they "do." (I hope some of the unknown doings are worthwhile, however.)

  45. That men are accorded more "working" privilege accords with the way work aligns with status & privilege generally in the contemporary world. (However, it's also probably worth noting that one possible outcome of a willingness not to define women by their — paid — work is that women are allowed a value outside of work, whereas many men are not.[46])

  46. This (relatively novel) relationship between work & status is thus contradictory in many ways. (The solution, according to neoliberal fundamentalism is to insist that everyone work. Some strands of feminism have thus been complicit in insisting that women derive their value from work.[47])

  47. I should probably also note, historically, the differential way that women were targeted in e.g. the "putting out" system, one of the primary ways a work-money economy was introduced in Europe. (See Braudel.) So these developments are & have been hierarchically inflected in multiple ways, all aspects of the contradictory deployment of work=status, and why that phenomenon is complicated to discuss in detail. (When in doubt, we can start with the self-evident notion that the person with lower status has fared worse.)

  48. Many people need to feel at least a little bit desperate in order to want to hear the truth. (That's a general observation, but I should also note that not all of my diversity training events went great overall, although there were no disasters and some great moments. I guess it's difficult to accept diverse outcomes in diversity sometimes!)

  49. Per [7], I was raised to respect work, to defer to people who are working, i.e. to get out of their way, etc. I still reflexively defer to e.g. restaurant servers. However, such discipline is engaged to enable toxic work (per [43]): People are "just doing their jobs" and so we should not complain about the negative outcomes (for us). This creates a double bind when we consider that, indeed, these workers are usually in precarious positions, and we have no opportunity to express our hostility directly to the people profiting. (That said, despite [44], I am also not above telling someone that "I'm working," so that they'll defer. What I typically desire in such a situation is simply to be left in peace. But I do sometimes, too often, perpetuate the work regime in this manner.)

  50. Under the liberal regime, the "or else" probably doesn't mean starving, but there are other ways to make people miserable, as we'll continue to discuss.

  51. Such an ultimatum has been made many times & places, of course, in many different ways.

  52. Many jobs, like so many other activities in our hierarchical society, involve giving to some people while taking from others: The economy operates like a suction pump, and many of us are only conduit.

  53. The term "zany" derives from Italy in the early modern period, designating someone (foreign or, more likely, from the countryside) who comes to the city for work. (The reference is to Our Aesthetic Categories.)

  54. Ngai observes that the term "zany" disappears (as a judgment) as zaniness itself abounds (i.e. becomes too familiar), zaniness as performance of the contortions required by contemporary work. (Zaniness continues to be exaggerated in comedy, where the zany often combines extreme competence with extreme incompetence derived from unfamiliarity.) Note also that the historical zany was typically figured as female: Lucille Ball is on the cover of my copy of Ngai's book.

  55. The typical zany is immersed in the unfamiliar, so figuring the contemporary world via zaniness focuses on the pace of change.

  56. Although hierarchy has been imposed at many times & places, the present gesture can be positioned historically, beginning with the modern era, and seemingly only intensifying today, with the epochal shift to labor surplus giving work an enhanced social status.

  57. We become our roles as workers, roles designated from elsewhere.

  58. In other words, the performance of zaniness mediates the unfamiliar to generate a new familiar. (The mediation of unfamiliarity occurs typologically here: A type of performance of unfamiliarity becomes familiar.)

  59. Working itself is so familiar that people will accept various changes to work without quitting their jobs: The unpleasant familiar can easily be preferred to the (radical?) unfamiliar.

  60. We might want to consider the selfless cog in the industrial machine, for instance, as an image of [57].

  61. Lauren Berlant says (in Sex) that she "hears" vacations are experiments in nonsovereignty. How far can we take this idea?

  62. Using "hours" — a division of time — is a clear indication that cleavage is embedded in this conception.

  63. Who is fearing someone's free time? It might be the person themselves, although then we might want to interrogate self-discipline. Young children are, often at least implicitly, taught how to have "free time" at school. (I will discuss the notion of "free time" further with the upcoming three gestures.)

  64. Unfortunately, the notion of someone dying shortly after retirement, because they don't know what to do with themselves, is more than merely a notion. (Fortunately, not nearly everyone suffers such a dramatic loss of purpose.)

  65. To paraphrase Lazzarato at length (from Signs and Machines): Normalization of semiotics converges with normalization of psychoanalysis, producing guilt, duty, and responsibility; the imperialism of language imposes on the other as low wages. In other words, we internalize the messages we receive about what we should be doing: We want to be responsible, to create the wealth others demand, even to the point of marginalizing ourselves. This process is mediated within the regime of signs (where it is most easily controlled) via machinic assemblages that incorporate our bodily interfaces: Words send us scurrying.

  66. I should also note the double bind of "personal responsibility": The term might mean (at its best) that we make our own choices, that we have control of our lives, but it's actually a message about what we have already been told we must do, a message that in turn shifts the blame for any failure onto us. In other words, we are told that we have control as a way of controlling us.

  67. The present gesture does indeed form quite a knot, as my circular & otherwise non-linear traces here hopefully attest. (And hopefully I am not complicating matters further by tracing it, although it's inevitable that yet another image should result.)

  68. I might suggest making the present gesture unfamiliar, or making it even more familiar by scrutinizing familiarity (which is more or less what I'm attempting here), but we need both to know it & not to know it. In other words, we need to know what it is, in order to avoid manipulation, but not to know it as part of ourselves.

  69. To restate the obvious, the era of the present gesture is the modern era. (Modernity defined in this way fits with the definitions I used in Is postmodernism racist?.)

  70. Young children with disabilities want to contribute as much as anyone else. I have never seen an exception, not until someone is older.

  71. Perhaps I should say something about the principle of reciprocity here: Infants do not immediately have a sense of reciprocity regarding the help they are (all, by definition, if they survived per [15]) given. However, helping one's parents does follow, after a while, from such an inclination. (I have already critiqued the contemporary state of reciprocity extensively, both here and in Remède de Fortune. In short, reciprocity itself is in a state of crisis due to overwhelmingly asymmetrical economic conditions. The crisis is reflected directly in contemporary subject formation. In tracing this relation, it is perhaps helpful to note — once again — the household origin of economics per se.)

  72. I will not spend much time critiquing the notion of merit in the system. Particularly in the fundamental(ist) mode — in other words, monetary wealth as the single measure of value — no relation with merit can be perceived, especially at the highest levels of wealth. In other words, even if the notion has some truth within small (limited) domains, it is utterly false when applied to society as a whole: Harmful activity is rewarded (as in [43]).

  73. The notion of "important social functions" needs to be rethought, so I present it here, in somewhat naked form, as a way to interrogate other relations, not as a coherent idea.

  74. I consciously invoke performance, and with it performativity.

  75. This is another reference to ascetology.

  76. I include the planet & environment generally, and with it other species, in the term "others" here. (Contemporary work can simply be counter to life, per [43], and quite often is: This is a problem over & above the problem of social hierarchy, although the two should not be neatly separated.)

  77. I did not say "earning" a living, for obvious reasons, although that is a common phrase. And this is the main practical point for most people: They must, somehow, acquire the resources required to maintain themselves as contemporary liberal subjects, or risk the (possibly very severe) consequences.[78] (There is also the simple, or not so simple, fact of [59].)

  78. There is a refrain that "earning a living" is the natural order of things, and certainly something must be done, by someone, if we are to continue living, but how much is dictated by social convention? (And I do not mean to reject or marginalize the concept of social convention per se, since people often feel a need to follow social convention.) Claims about what is "the natural order" can be quite outrageous in their extreme reliance on contemporary conditions — but people seem to believe, readily, that conditions originating with modernity were always in place.

  79. Such domains are typically constructed — by which I mean not only that I am describing (per [67]) them typologically, but that they invoke typology in their construction — with very specific constraints that sharply proscribe behavior, so that they fit easily within established hierarchy.

  80. Perhaps this is a controversial statement: Yes, I believe in this excess.

  81. An emphasis on consistency is a form of control, as I've discussed in the past. Consistency itself can become a problem: This is how we get fundamentalism. (Consistency also functions by limitation, limiting excess, limiting diversity.)

  82. That living includes doing is a transparent fact, but I will note it specifically anyway.

  83. Next we might want to consider what self-direction means in a regime that does not posit the liberal subject. Such a consideration is largely beyond the present gesture discussion. (The gesture itself is rather far from a regime without the liberal subject, and I am further within a frame negating the gesture. A question then becomes, how much does this latter frame owe to the liberal subject?)

  84. It is also rather easy to deceive people about having moved away from the duality at all: One can redefine work & life, yet retain the duality.

  85. The "uselessness" of art is a modern, if not post-Enlightenment, idea. I do not want to suggest that it has any universality. Indeed, I do not want to suggest that the idea itself is even coherent.

  86. The idea evokes Walter Benjamin for me, and perhaps I should also note that pondering the mechanical reproduction of art (in the early twentieth century) seems to anticipate the current (then, upcoming) era of labor surplus more generally.

  87. Despite laments about the uselessness of art — and I hear this type of thing from e.g. parents whose child is proposing to study arts as a career — many people have jobs doing art. (These jobs, e.g. graphic design or television production, I should also note, are most often in the service of the hierarchical system, since it requires updating & renewing forms of semiotic control. The latter cannot be left to become too familiar.)

  88. In my area & more broadly, some people adopt the term "maker," and we see events such as makers fairs. Such a turn is toward a view of art prior to norms of "uselessness." More tangibly, the participants, at least in my limited exposure (although I do know, partly per [7], a number of people who align with this turn), also reject the (presumed) "prettiness" of art. That this parallels postmodern art itself seems to escape notice. In any case, both turns reflect a desire for dignity — a term most participants seem to embrace. These correspondences probably warrant more investigation.

  89. It's also possible that art becomes a laboratory for creating new forms of immaterial labor [90] — another kind of semiotic service. (I mention this possibility not to advocate, but to raise alarm. The gesture remains quite knotted.) Art can function as a laboratory, because of its conceptual & fast-moving relations, interrogating signs: Presumably this "laboratory potential" can be put to many uses.

  90. There is a correspondence between "immaterial" and feminist views of labor: Prototypically, nurturing (enabling) is not considered labor at all: Yet it is required. So, for instance, so-called "pink collar" jobs require the worker to provide (free) psychological services. This demand, typically made of women, is extended to more of the population [91]: It need not remain in the psychic realm: Indeed consumers are forced (coaxed?) to perform more tasks (work) [92] at retail stores (e.g. bagging, or even checkout), so that fewer people will be employed, and profits will rise. Work is increasingly "hidden" in this manner.[94,95]

  91. For example, people with disabilities are required to help able-bodied people feel okay about being in contact with someone with a disability: The demand for such labor falls upon the person with the disability — or more generally, proceeds down the social hierarchy.

  92. I hope that forcing and/or coaxing the reader to work in this text is a different kind of activity.[93] But this brings me back to an earlier question, "Does working increase power, or does working decrease power? It can do either." So I have a basis for figuring the activities differently.

  93. Deleuze frames recognition itself (which I problematized previously) as labor.

  94. Hidden work is a feminist theme, summarized in Weeks's chapter three title, "From wages for housework to basic income." (Calls for a basic, guaranteed income — and it appears we were closer to this goal forty years ago than we are now — negate any need to determine what is or isn't work, defined as warranting a wage: One simply gets paid.)

  95. We are told that, in the absence of worker power, there is still consumer power, that this is how one asserts oneself in (what is, after all, called) consumer society. Such a message is an aspect of the double bind of [66], as the example of consumers (customers) needing to perform more work related to making their purchases illustrates. Perhaps it is consumers who need to undertake a general strike!

  96. Such a hypothetical "post-work" society (within the modern, Western frame) would not be the first artistic — focused on art — society, however.

  97. I already analyzed property (more or less) as an inverse form of debt in Remède de Fortune. Weeks argues that work is more important than property for sustaining capitalism, and so I'll add that debt is a significant (literally) part of the nexus between the two.

  98. The so-called debt crisis, via which the financial industry consolidated unprecedented control over the rest of society, specifically provoked these analyses, including Graeber's in Debt. Will such specific analyses continue to resonate in & for the future? On that, I'll simply note that debt depends on time: It's a statement about the future itself.

  99. That we all owe is not a recent notion. Graeber notes that e.g. Christianity has long posited an unpayable debt. We could also posit a debt (unpayable?) to our parents (tangential to [71]). The concept is deeply embedded in our society, but is also (re)articulated in a specific cultural way.

  100. You might not have the opportunity to work (for us, or them), but the consequences will proceed in the same manner, regardless: You still owe.

Relaxing at home

It would be only too easy to approach the present gesture from within the duality enacted by the previous gesture, to treat home as a place opposite the workplace (i.e. as the place of "life"), and to treat the act of relaxing as the opposite of working. So the challenge is to interrogate this gesture on its own terms: We can ask, for instance, what would be the point of work if not for home [1], and in turn what "home" is. (This will be the focus.) What is relaxing? It is becoming less tense or taut, less restrained or strict, slackening effort.[2] The latter can invoke "work" as effort, so let us consider tension & restraint: We want (perhaps? [3]) not to be tense, to be unrestrained, to do what we will. Where does this happen? According to the gesture title, at home. Home, we are told — through various clichés — is more about people or state of mind than it is about a specific (physical [4]) location or structure. Home suggests a mood or orientation [5]: Home is the nexus of familiarity: I will treat it as a location in precisely that sense. Heidegger [6] explores the role of objects [7] in creating a place, making a home, building attunement & situatedness. Home suggests a mood or orientation, but are we attuned to our home(s), really situated there? Do we feel more "at home" at work, for instance? (Somewhere else?) Do we relax only to facilitate more work later? Conversely, do we retain our attunement to home while at work?[8,9] Referring to previous gestures, do we relax via humor [11] or sexual release [12]? Do we require a mechanism of attunement? Does relaxing open us to experience? In this latter sense, home [13] is where we can be ourselves and have our own perceptions.[14] Relaxing itself is not an emotion, but relaxing does invoke an emotional range [15]: There is no relaxed anger [16], for instance. Experiences of home create their own (emotional) associations, such as those of comfort food.[17]

If home is the nexus of familiarity, what constitutes the irruption? In this case, it is the feeling — the realization [18] — of relaxation arising from the familiar. I've used the term "nexus" in order to avoid the more specific associations of other terms: Home might be a territory, i.e. inflected upon itself via characteristic [19] principle. Indeed, many people view the home [20], whether physical or otherwise, as a territory: A territory invokes sovereignty, and often, defense.[21] The home-as-territory has an associated body of law, for instance, in particular around the topic of privacy.[22] The home as a private domain (in the legal sense) corresponds with the home as personal territory (perhaps in the physical sense [23]). Privacy is troubling the contemporary regime, and so this home-as-territory notion provides one orientation for interrogation: Is familiarity itself [24] private? We consider intimacy, often figured as sexual intimacy, to be private. Not all emotions are figured as private, however.[25] Are some sensory modes more private than others?[26] (Are some sensory modes more associated with home?) Privacy can be sacralizing via its lack of disclosure, at least as regards objects [27]: This move [28] yields the home as sacred object (territory), privacy itself as creative. (Here we can glimpse the generative contradiction of home-as-territory.)

Continuing to view home as a territory, we can interrogate its sovereignty. We [29] receive a double message about that: The father is head of household; the mother runs the home.[30,31] But there is another double: Is anyone in the family sovereign? What of the state, or religion? In each case, the home marks an interface, an articulation of sovereignty within or beyond itself. (Relaxing at home then figures hierarchy.[32]) Home, like family, is a "traditional" unit [33]: It becomes both subject & object [34]. It is the object of both external governance & internal sovereignty as territory. As a nexus or mood, it orients in turn. As the nexus of familiarity, home is about family, whether family as subject or object. State & religion both mediate subject & object via home & family: Their laws [35] (explicit or implicit) are about both what we do & what is done to us, in this context. Religion itself, in the sense of religio [36], being about traditional obligations, is strongly oriented on the home.[37,38,39] In structuring the family, religion can also bring conflict to the home.[40] The state can do the same, especially via rules of inheritance: At least in the West, these have typically enforced male sovereignty, and might create other inter- or intra-generational conflicts.[41,42] Such doubling — whether contradictory sovereignty or subject-object interfacing — brings with it another doubling of relations: Someone might have more than one relation: Family, in the home, grounds not only the beginning of trans-individual thought [43], but of relational abstraction.[44] Family territories might then be doubled, abstractly again, in affinal relations.[45] Home becomes a concept.

If home is a concept — a concept that even small children know is bound by abstract relations [46], and that in turn generates our concept of abstraction — then we can observe a couple of things: Home is more (or less [48]) than a territory.[50] (I'm calling it a nexus, or maybe a location.[51]) And abstraction arises from familiarity.[52,53] I discussed home in the context of family above, and now I want to consider home more broadly, i.e. without the necessity of family [54]: Not everyone lives with others [55], not everyone has the same associations with home (or family [56]), etc. Is a home inherently shared at all? Is relaxation shared? If home is to relaxing as territory is to sovereignty [57,58], then perhaps relaxation is shared to the extent that home is shared.[59] What are the techniques of relaxation?[60] (Is relaxing technical?[61]) What are the sensory modes of relaxing?[62] Although answers to these questions invoke personal variation, they also (often) involve mechanisms of attunement: Can someone be relaxed without being situated?[63] In this gesture, we are dealing with situation, and so the nexus of home forges the (familiar) paths [64] of relaxation. I have already alluded to development, i.e. time [65], and we can interrogate the time of this gesture: Relaxing implies the moment, being in the moment (at least pace [63])[66], and the nexus of home suggests the past.[67] (Familiarity generated in the past is mediated in the present moment.) Is the present gesture "necessary" — as I've been asking of the others? We must relax [68], so this question is actually about home: If home is defined as the place of relaxation, then we have a tautology.[69] If not, then perhaps it is superfluous [70] — or at least it is for some of us.[71]

  1. Asking about the "point" of work is a first attempt at looking at an uncloven life. In other words, it asks why accept cleavage?

  2. I do not intend to interrogate the history of the word "relax" or "relaxing" specifically here, and so this definition is casually distilled from a variety of dictionary entries. I trust that it gives sufficient description of the activity — rather than word — under consideration. (I make this note not to equivocate on dictionaries, but to emphasize the activity.)

  3. If we were to take a survey, most respondents would answer that they want to be less tense or restrained, but actual behavior is not always (or even often) consistent with such a response. (Such is the disciplinary mechanism of the governmental regime.) So I will approach such a desire as hypothetical.

  4. I specify physicality, in the usual sense of location, to refer to a place in the physical world, presumably on this planet, a place that e.g. is likely legally owned by some person or entity (perhaps not the person whose home it is). In this sense, physicality specifies a more specific kind of location, differing from locations such as in one's imagination, relative to some motion, etc.

  5. Home also suggests "preposition" in Latour's sense, analogous to mood or orientation — and, according to the gesture title, home is a place to be at. (Does an underline excuse the dangling preposition?)

  6. I have never been comfortable with Heidegger, and in particular some of the uses to which his ideas have been put, but his interrogation of ideas on "home" & attunement are relevant here.

  7. Heidegger has a flare for everyday objects — ordinary objects with various associations built up from use. (Consider the idea of affect passed via object.)

  8. Many people are more concerned about home — their lives — while at work. (They're typically considered to be distracted employees.)

  9. Situations such as "working from home" [10] also problematize this work-home duality.

  10. I am someone who "works from home" not infrequently (including at the moment). I do not have a workplace, unless it is in my home, but I also work from other locations, whether transient locations or more settled spots. (I don't agree with much of Aristotle, but I do adopt the peripatetic style quite literally, supplemented by public transportation. I wrote significant sections of this article while on the train or bus, and often go for walks to take notes.)

  11. The ret (reterritorialization) of comedy is designed (canonically) to lower stress & create relaxation — at least if we accept its designated territory. Is that territory "home?" It can certainly be defined that way, as part of the nexus of familiarity, but let us continue to interrogate the territory involved: When the comedy is from television (or other mass media), we might wonder if the "home" ret has anything to do with the (at least in the physical sense) homes of the audience. However, we might also (or instead?) have our own humor active at home, with corresponding ret to our (more specific) home. Likely, even the latter involves a combination (of ideas of home), and it's the combining that forges the nexus.

  12. Home might have a complicated sexual dynamic. Or it might be the location (or territory) of routine sex.

  13. Home, as the nexus of familiarity, is figured here as safe. (Children, likewise, are often more adventurous when in an environment they consider to be safe, per various studies.)

  14. As [11] already suggests, various sensations are experienced in the contemporary home, many of them originating elsewhere.

  15. In the affective domain, we can figure relaxation as low arousal. (This has implications for [12], although "arousal" does not technically have the same meaning in the two contexts.)

  16. Are bitterness & resentment relaxed? These emotions are felt at home — but then, so is anger. (Anger might be directed within the home-as-territory, or toward the outside. In either case, it is not relaxing. Perhaps it is inappropriate to observe that domestic violence emerges from territorial articulation, specifically because that sounds so impersonal.)

  17. Comfort food, in turn, via the familiarity nexus (via association), enacts a feeling of home. Comfort food is becoming big business as fewer people (in this country, anyway) actually cook. However, the latter may anticipate the end of "comfort food" as a significant part of the familiarity nexus. (Perhaps I should have oriented a gesture on food.)

  18. This entire gesture is based on realization, meaning that it is incoherent without a sense of self. However, it should also be noted that the associations of familiarity that the gesture invokes might very well have been created subconsciously. So whereas the irruption requires a sense of self, it relies on previous processes in the affective domain.

  19. I remind the reader that a territory has a characteristic, internal contradiction that generates & sustains it.

  20. I am using "the home" as territory (object, closed), whereas an indefinite "home" suggests the (more open) nexus.

  21. Via ethology, Deleuze & Guattari figure the refrain as the most basic (conceptual) defense of territory. (How much of the home is figured via compulsive repetition?)

  22. As already examined, at least partially, privacy is a term derived from the "private individual" of liberal governmentality. The prototypical activity one conducts "privately" is therefore "business" (i.e. profit seeking). In this sense, the home is an extension (or perhaps the actual location) of one's business — and privacy implies sovereignty in this very specific sense (at least in USA, where it was written as "pursuit of happiness").

  23. Law (i.e. legislators, lawyers, judges, juries, bureaucrats) has attempted to extend notions of "privacy" outside the physical territory of the home, most notably to "personal information" (i.e. trade secrets, per [22]). How such an impetus might eventually extend to even broader ideas of home — home is where the heart is? — is unknown (speculative). However, given that the physical home is now permeated by two-way media, the notion that it's a secure (physical) territory is no longer relevant (even as this notion is highlighted in various legal precedents). So, if ideas on liberal privacy are to be retained, they will be forced to figure territories other than as physical spaces, or at least as more richly intersecting/intersected spaces.

  24. The self is figured as private, although per [23], how this notion intersects with multiple interfaces (of the self) is anything but settled. I believe that, ultimately, privacy of the self is an incoherent notion, and that we are seeing the contradictory legal results of that incoherence. (Problems with legal incoherence are or will be passed hierarchically downward, of course: This basic process makes the incoherence of the private self a problem even for those of us who believe the basic notion has always been flawed.)

  25. For example, various celebratory emotions associated with local teams winning at sports are considered to be public. (Those of us who are not associated with sports teams are subjected to them anyway, like it or not, and they might become violent.) Emotions associated with nationalism are certainly not private, either.

  26. I find the topic of privacy according to sensory mode to be a fascinating one. Ocularcentrism figures a hierarchy of modes that correspond to regimes of privacy, but there are other relations (e.g. between hearing & smell — to pick something possibly unfamiliar) in those regimes. There is also the subject-object duality: Are we obliged not to look, or obliged not to show? Are we obliged not to sound, or obliged not to hear? (Noise pollution is, in my opinion, a large & growing problem, but other people might not share that particular sensory orientation.)

  27. I derive these remarks from Heidegger. (The signification of the "hidden object" could also be related to Lacan, et al.)

  28. The move in question is the establishment of privacy, the concealing of something — perhaps the concealing of nothing.

  29. I already use "we" far too presumptuously in this article. In this section, I am being even more culturally indulgent (i.e. relaxing).

  30. Please excuse me for moving directly to family roles. I could have said husband & wife. Or I could have tried to articulate this portion of the gesture without heteronormativity.... (Perhaps another time I'll attempt the latter.)

  31. Although one can readily observe a hierarchy here (and I won't bother discussing it in much detail, since I have nothing new to say), the point is that the home (per se) is often attributed to a woman as sovereign, even if her standing in the family is not sovereign.

  32. As I asked of comedy, who is relaxed, when, where, why? (In this gesture, we already posit the where.)

  33. Political fights about the "nuclear family" are also about the home as the location of that family. Moreover, modern insistence on the (private) individual subject gives the (nuclear) family itself more of a skeletal shape, i.e. interconnections (supposedly) occur only at the level of the total individual, and so its (the individual's) location or container becomes more the object of governance.

  34. The "skeletal" nuclear family (per [33]) becomes, in this sense, a minimal articulation. It can easily pass subject & object relations through itself (including as an interface of sovereignty, as per above). It has proven to be a versatile form for governmentality, precisely because of this minimal articulation, but minimality also brings fear of losing such articulation altogether, as the family — at least according to some rhetoric — disappears as a unit. What is really being enacted in rhetoric is this minimality, the interface of subject-object relation itself. (Or maybe contemporary governmentality simply needs hostages.)

  35. It is worth considering religion as a parallel body of law. (Note, for instance, that religion invokes a fundamentally juridical logic, i.e. that of precedent.) Perhaps this seems alien to some readers, but for centuries, Europe had different courts for church & state. (So-called "separation" in USA has meant state courts without religious courts — like many facets of liberal modernism, the opposite of what it says.)

  36. There is some controversy regarding the etymology of the Latin term religio, although it likely means to bind again, i.e. to continue to follow tradition closely. (Cicero claimed it meant something about choice, but this seems like a rhetorical move to me. It does fit nicely with my subject & object discussion above, though.) It suggests (family) obligation.

  37. The home is where daily obligations, such as ancestor veneration, typically occur. (This would appear to be the opposite of relaxing, but in saying that, I am projecting a modernist interpretation of these obligations. They might feel very freeing to the person performing them, leading to an opportunity to relax. The proximity then becomes helpful.)

  38. Family stories are, generally, the core of religious traditions. (So says Oxford's The Family.)

  39. In turn, self-formation has been strongly oriented on the home. (The liberal self, oriented on the market, thus elicits contradictory feelings from traditionalists who, in this country, idolize both the market & home or family.)

  40. External misogyny can seem especially unwelcome in a setting where it is clear to everyone that mother is, in fact, sovereign. Such contradictions continue to enact the home (or nuclear family) as an interface (per [34]). Especially via asceticism, religion has also removed family members (permanently) from the home.

  41. Social hierarchy is, once again, articulated via or within the family, perhaps in contradiction to relations within the home. (Such hierarchy might be perceived simultaneous to other relations.)

  42. To return to an idea from the previous gesture, the absence of any criterion of "merit" (unless we figure e.g. masculinity as merit, as admittedly some people did & do) associated with legal inheritance was one motivation for the liberal regime.

  43. I shift focus here to the small child: The child learns that other people, typically first the mother and then others in the family, have their own thoughts & needs. (Even the discrete, liberal subject requires some degree of trans-individual thought for socialization.)

  44. Children learn that e.g. their mother or their friend has a different mother, i.e. that what they call someone is dependent on who they themselves are, and that the relation (and name) exists for others as well, but instantiated in a different person. (Watching this kind of relational abstraction develop can be fascinating, particularly as it can be very sudden after a period of confusion.)

  45. So then, even outside the home, farther from the nuclear family, the same relational abstraction applies, although perhaps with a twist: Another home might name family roles differently, for instance (and I mention the affine family, specifically because the sovereignty & roles might be different or reversed). Abstract relations become colored.

  46. Per [44,45], children learn that home is defined by relations. Discovering a relation, in something called a home, but that is very different from their experience, can be rather surprising to children — at least the sorts of children who like to pursue such abstraction (perhaps to the point of imperialism, as mine did, I must admit [47]).

  47. I was often surprised by how far my son (the oldest) thought that an abstract relation should extend. He would make all sorts of general pronouncements (e.g. "Women don't drink beer!") as a small child, and would often attempt to reinforce them when confronted with something different. (I do not believe that this experience is either uncommon or nearly universal. Children have different attitudes toward difference, and part of his attitude can probably be attributed to my own personal weaknesses on this point.)

  48. I do not want to dwell (ha!) on this "more or less" notion, but the point is that home includes relations that lead outside of any hypothetical territory, that there is no real center to home.[49] The former we might call "more" (i.e. more relations); the latter we might call "less" (i.e. less place). On the latter, think of opening away from contradiction — which might seem (even more) paradoxical when considered as more, but contradiction establishes a territory (i.e. it is a knot, substantial).

  49. We might say that the center of home is in the past.

  50. The sovereignty of home is also ambiguous, which follows from the fact that it's not a territory; or that it's not a territory follows from the ambiguous sovereignty.

  51. The "location" of a nexus is then dissociated from a physical place, per the first paragraph of this discussion.

  52. "Abstraction arises from familiarity" is something of a thesis for the present article. (It is the nature of this abstraction, it's more specific relations, that I continue to interrogate, together with the reciprocal thesis, etc.)

  53. We might also say that cultural embeddedness takes shape as the familiar — both mediated via (the) home.

  54. I might have said "I want to queer home," although I believe the generalization here is a little broader than that.

  55. I could say "other people," but want to include the possibility of pets, and who knows what else. (I might as well raise Sartre's notion that "hell is other people" explicitly here: I would argue that this notion premises hell on home, an unhappy home, of course.)

  56. The "family of choice" concept fits neatly here. Although there is some literality to family when considering small children (although perhaps not), that might not be the case for adults: Even rather non-queer, married people might have e.g. drinking buddies with whom they feel (more?) at home.

  57. Note that, just as not everyone is sovereign in a territory (to understate), not everyone is able to relax at home (for a variety of reasons). See also [32].

  58. I offer a little SAT flashback. (Although I should remind myself that this discussion is about relaxing, not comedy.)

  59. Although I consider extroversion-introversion to be an overused duality, preferences for shared or private relaxation probably relate to personality. (Such a personal duality can presumably be probed according to one's family history, and other developmental factors.) We might also want to interrogate how the postmodern epoch changes (or doesn't change) the nature of sharing relaxation, i.e. by penetrating the home nexus with more media relations. (I will not undertake that further here, although it will be implicit to Chapter IV.)

  60. I have already named comedy & sex as possible relaxation techniques. Compiling a (much) longer list might prove interesting, but I will not attempt it here.

  61. My format makes it practically impossible to negate technique here. (This is unfortunate, but perhaps the issue can be partially addressed in Chapter IV.)

  62. We can also consider alignment of sensory modes. To invoke another culture, e.g. feng shui has much to say on this topic (and not only about relaxing specifically). It's tempting to observe that vision is less imperial during relaxation, but that televised entertainment works to maintain ocularcentrism. (The disciplinary regime requires scopic fixation? Some further speculative remarks are very tempting....)

  63. Put differently, can someone be open to experience without being situated? (I will continue to treat this question in the next two gesture discussions.)

  64. To what extent is relaxation about repetition? Is it a compulsion (i.e. obsession)? (The refrain is about territory, re-raising the question of [21].)

  65. For many people, the time of this gesture is literally after that of the previous gesture. I.e., "Relaxing after work" could have been a gesture title combining them. (We could ponder titles to combine other gestures too.)

  66. The notion of relaxing in the moment (at home) brings to mind Ngai's observation that feminist theory is always (said to be) at the wrong time (evoking [57]).

  67. Per [49], the "center" of home is in the past, i.e. our associations reach back to childhood. (Even someone who never really had a home has associations with the idea of "home.") Should I call this (the) eternal return (pace [64])?

  68. I know of no theory of human health that eschews relaxation. (Modern disciplinary messages are often, implicitly, against relaxation, or about when relaxation is inappropriate, so to be delayed [49,65,66], but it is not denied in general, even there.) Although consider the compulsion of [64], yet again.

  69. Tautologies can (and should?) be interrogated, as here: They often open to rich detail. (Tautologies & contradictions are not stopping points. I hope that this is abundantly clear, even if tracing them involves so much circular motion.)

  70. Home is certainly not superfluous to contemporary governmentality: Per [34], and paragraph three generally, it is one of the most powerful articulations of governmentality.

  71. Does nomadic theory apply only to adults, for instance? I believe that this is an important question, or at least that the ways it might or might not apply to children is, since at least in some ways, it does.

Flights of boredom

With this gesture, we take up, tangentially [1], the nomadism of the final note from the previous gesture: If lines of flight structure territories [2], then boredom — feeling an excess of familiarity [3] — is an inherent attribute, as line of flight, of a totalizing system.[4] It's the image of non-escape, but also its own (line of) flight. Although boredom might be an image, it is also something we feel, including physically [5], and something we do: "Being bored" might not seem like an activity, but here we will interrogate it as such: It's something we want to stop doing, to escape: This leads to more of the same, as boredom is the line of flight from itself. (If boredom is already pure immanence, we cannot escape it by focusing on it.[6] And there is no transcending the totalizing system — this is the bind of the present gesture.) How do we escape from both everything & nothing at once?[7] Relations continually escape the (totalizing) system, multiply even, only to be reincorporated.[8] (Comedy escapes — deterritorializes — and then reterritorializes, likewise in continual refrain.[9]) Somehow, though, we find ourselves along a transversal fed by further escape, self-sustaining non-equilibrium.[10] Boredom yields a negative image of time, an inversion that undoes its own doing [11]: It lasts forever in the pure emptiness of time [12] (until it doesn't [13]). The familiar becomes unmediated, generated to excess, so that we crave anything unfamiliar [14], anything from an unknown time, a new & different beginning.[15] In boredom, we reach extremes of subjectivity, with only ourselves as object, the others washed away in a sea of familiarity: Only we can act, can relate differently.[16] (Boredom also becomes racialized, as people seek those unknown times & different beginnings. Boredom figures dissatisfaction [17], seeks something else, wanders.[18]) This gesture is impossible without the self, and the irruption becomes a feeling (of self): Feeling both the flight & the empty time of boredom, together, an excess of familiar irrupting through the self [19], explosive motion to nowhere.[20] We fly in the same place, forever.

The familiar overwhelms in flight without motion [21,22], yet such flight might stop (as underlined above). Are we different then?[23] (As the subjects & objects of flight, only we ourselves can differ.) We might perceive the scene, the situation, the ecology differently. We escape from nothing but ourselves: We might induce unfamiliar sensation with drugs [24], "interesting" food or music [26] — escape from boredom becomes habit itself. Boredom becomes an orientation [28], a preposition: It colors perception & frames motion — both with the familiar. To what extent is the excess of familiarity in boredom real? The world might be unfamiliar in ways we never perceive, caught as we are.[29] To be caught in excess: What of stress? Stress can be excessively familiar [30], yet not boring — orientation again.[32] Stress can overwhelm boredom.[33] In such realms of excess familiarity, of stasis, might we innovate? The present moment is not actually familiar! We open to experience, relax [34], but where? Are we situated (perhaps at home), or are we still in flight? We might create or invoke rituals [35], whether to situate or to fly, or maybe both at once: We might be at home everywhere & nowhere (becoming nomadic). Flight & escape are associated with fear [36], both fear of what we're escaping, and of what we might find: We might simply fear free time [37] — and boredom fills endless time.[38,39] Nothing (no feeling) could be more superfluous than boredom [42,43], yet as line of flight, perhaps it yields a transverse space. However, boredom seems especially inherent to the system when we consider that capitalism incites boredom (& envy) [44]: Its line of flight does indeed structure it. Escape is assimilated as habitual.[45,46] So maybe [47] we can interrupt capitalist logic by refusing to escape boredom [48], refusing to stop, refusing its refrain: Can nomadic deterritorialization possibly disrupt capitalist deterritorialization?[49] Such a question frames the present gesture — not as superfluous — as critical, both for capitalism itself & for overcoming it: To where is the flight?

  1. The tangent is the figure of the present gesture.

  2. As per the previous gesture, we might or might not consider home, in whatever sense, to be a territory.

  3. I have given my own succinct, contextual definition of boredom, which I believe the reader will agree is a reasonably good summary (at least in this context) of the following: The OED says boredom is, "the state of being bored; tedium, ennui." To bore is, "to weary ... by the failure to be interesting." The noun "bore" is equated with ennui, and ennui is, "The feeling of mental weariness and dissatisfaction produced by want of occupation, or by lack of interest in present surroundings or employments." (I'm amazed by the latter definition, so I quote it in full: Its double invocation of "work" is one of its features.) The etymology for this sense of "bore" is supposedly unknown, although ennui is described as "a specifically French malady."

  4. In other words, although "escape" (or flight) from a totalizing system is impossible, in some sense or form, not only will such flights actually occur, but they will still serve to structure the system as a territory.

  5. I believe it's important to note that boredom is a bodily feeling: An excess of familiarity might consume more than our minds. (Likewise, depression is also a bodily feeling, as advertising reminds us.)

  6. we have already investigated some ways that pursuing an excess of familiarity might be defamiliarizing, so this observation is not strictly true. However, it is often the situation, or at least feels like it is.

  7. As per the parenthetical observation of [5], depression also demands escape — likewise from everything & nothing. The difference is in the actualization: Escape from depression remains a desire (while depressed), whereas the non-escape escape of boredom somehow actually happens.

  8. The bodily image is worth noting.

  9. Structurally, refrains are interrupted. They might seem not to be: Hence, "continual."

  10. If "the system" is equilibrium, then we inquire about non-equilibrium. (Ilya Prigogine already observed how life violates the equilibrium laws of thermodynamics.)

  11. In boredom, the impossible escape lasts forever — but as something unpleasant.

  12. As noted in the (second) Opening, the concept of emptiness implies the concept of containment or container.

  13. Here we can evoke the event, even if it cannot be summoned via time.

  14. Thus boredom can lead to risky behavior in an effort to escape the familiar. Such an observation can also be framed as a desire to learn, to experience. (Some people have more desire to learn new things.)

  15. On the model of private inheritance, the concept of "success" is built upon the concept of "sequence" — one first does something, then another thing, and onward (in the ordinary flow of time) until one reaches success. (To reiterate, success is typically conceived as a sequence in time. Its etymology makes that very clear.) To want a different time, a new beginning, is to eschew sequence, and with it, success: So do not become bored!

  16. Boredom can invoke an endless search for differences, as described (not especially well, and without the term) in Crusading fashion.

  17. Boredom is, perhaps, most often associated with privileged white adolescents. (They have their own style of dissatisfaction.)

  18. The "wandering" image is borrowed from Sarah Jane Cervenak, whose book Wandering I only skimmed.

  19. We might feel the self acutely in all its excess of familiarity.

  20. The emptiness of time precludes motion (as a space-time locus).

  21. From where is this flight? Home? (But if we are nomads....)

  22. Lack of motion can be related to acedia (a term Svendsen cites, along with some of the other remarks I've already reproduced), laziness or sloth, contempt for creation — creation presumably implying our own (appropriate) doing.

  23. Time is no longer empty: We suddenly perceive "a then."

  24. I don't want to get too far into this notion of "drugs," but obviously that label is highly contextual. Personally, I find coffee to be extremely potent, and am amazed by how accepted & ubiquitous it is, as compared to e.g. alcohol or marijuana, which are milder. (Of course, there is no reason to be amazed: Coffee is considered to be conducive to capitalist labor, although I'm not sure that it actually is.[24]) In any case, "drugs" are a category of substance that, when taken into the body, induce some kind of change — whether that change is perceptual, physically felt (such as pain relief), avoiding heart attacks, etc. They are then, by definition, defamiliarizing — until they become familiar (habitual) too.

  25. The restlessness induced by coffee might not be good for labor, but it's surely good for consumption. (What does this say about actual social priorities?)

  26. The foodie quest is probably more persistent than the drive for newness in music. After all, we (typically) eat multiple times a day, and available food options might be limited, at least in the moment. In the contemporary world, available music options are not so limited, and perhaps more to the point, not actually consumed in the hearing. (Quoting "interesting" is a reference to Ngai's discussion of this aesthetic, according to her, category.) Is all this done out of boredom? The question then becomes: Boredom with what? I do not believe that answers to the latter question are consistent, whether within individuals or between them: The familiarity at issue is not so specific.[27]

  27. This remark calls for Lacanian analysis: The object ("a") that is the cause of desire is not the object that is the focus of desire.

  28. Svendsen associates boredom with Romanticism, which we might consider to be an orientation. (This is at most a partial answer, shifting the question to be about Romanticism.)

  29. As escape from the system, boredom becomes its own capture.

  30. My referent is the kind of long-term stress that comes from living a precarious existence, day after day, year after year. Such a long-term situation differs from stressful emergencies (events), which might be very unfamiliar — this last being what our (biological) stress reactions are tuned to handle. (We might also ask, somewhat differently, if people are too busy to be bored, what with contemporary life becoming increasingly hectic.[31] Being busy, by itself, does not seem to me to be much of an impediment to boredom, though.)

  31. Somehow, the era of labor surplus means increasingly hectic lives. This might seem contradictory, but it's more like compensation — and fear of what else we might do (per [27]).

  32. Hence [17]. What is the actual character of a familiar excess? "Too much of a good thing" might be unsatisfying, but it's unlike almost-too-much of a bad thing. (I posit for the latter that "too much" would mean death, so stop just short.)

  33. One simple (biological, again) mechanism is hormonal response (as already suggested in [30]).

  34. So we see a clear difference between excesses: Long-term stress closes us, is not relaxing, never relaxing. (Short-term stress might open us to unfamiliar possibilities, although it is not relaxing either.)

  35. Musical ritual is an obvious reference (meaning, obvious within my own broader activities): Music has been a part of many rituals, even when it is not the focus. (And one can argue that it only became the focus of ritual in the late modern period.) Such rituals include examples that situate & examples that defamiliarize (disorient): The latter might in turn refamiliarize (akin to the det-ret pair of comedy, per an earlier gesture), but might bring considerable risk (per [14]) in an effort to escape (ingrained mental patterns). The mood of ritual figures the gravity of the situation (or unsituation).

  36. I hope I'm not taking too much of a Hobbesian turn here. We might also consider the (emotional) exhilaration of freedom.

  37. Fear of free time is very common. It's common for parents to fear the free time of their children too. (I'm reminded of the Styx song of my early adolescence, era of widespread factory closings in Midwestern USA, Too Much Time on My Hands.)

  38. According to Ngai, citing Bloch, all emotions refer to the horizon of time. (But note [30] again: Emotion itself is overwhelmed by stress?) Time becomes the utopian reference by which our affect is measured, relatively — until it disappears in boredom, where we become without emotional horizon. (Perhaps I should also note Steve Allen's remark on tragedy & comedy again.)

  39. Supposedly, the time spent (or perceived time spent) feeling bored decreases with age (as self-reported in surveys). Are older people more creative?[40] Maybe they simply don't self-report in the same way? Maybe older people are less romantic (per [28]).[41]

  40. Personally, and I don't know if I'm "an older person" — we are all older than we once were — I find that creativity in the contemporary era requires a great deal of study. (If nothing else, one must escape the already existing propaganda, understand what is what in the world, etc.) So it implies age.

  41. There's a tension regarding age & Romanticism: As an older (intellectual, aesthetic) movement, it suggests age. Yet it also suggests the passions of youth. Although the latter impression might dominate, it is not at all clear to me that older people are indeed less romantic. (Attempting to combine Svendsen's observations on these points, Romanticism & age, might not be worthwhile.)

  42. It's probably worth considering the statement, "Nothing could be more superfluous than boredom," in all its literality.

  43. A non-escaping line of flight from a totalizing system sounds superfluous indeed.

  44. This specific observation and wording is taken from Gilles Châtelet in the subtitle of To Live and Think Like Pigs, which was recently translated into English. (Although it's named in the subtitle, Châtelet does not consider boredom in detail.)

  45. This remark combines prominent ideas of Bourdieu & Baudrillard.

  46. Svendsen frames boredom as a problem with modern individualism (as opposed to "tradition"), but as I've already discussed extensively, the (capitalist disciplinary) system forges the liberal subject (and with it, individualism). So, in this sense, the habit is the self (itself).

  47. Perhaps this entire discussion is too equivocal, but there is no certainty in the realm of boredom, other than boredom.

  48. What kind of motivation is boredom, anyway? (It colors so much via preposition or mood.) People say it is motivating.... The system wants it to motivate (pace [25])....

  49. Writers such as Deleuze & Braidotti attach such hopes to nomadic theory. (We want to refigure [11], to remove the unpleasantness.)

Playing like an animal

For me, this is the most unfamiliar gesture.[1] I'll consequently figure it via the unfamiliar, but some readers might feel otherwise. After all, that the human is an animal is a truth of our era: Even in previous eras, becoming-animal animated [2,3] mythology, and similarities between humans & animals were explored & indexed. (The most important difference, at least in the Western world [4], was said to be the use of reason and/or language [5], which we'll discuss with the next gesture.) That someone could play — or perform some other act — like an animal would have seemed very possible, or at least a worthy image.[6] Now, though, we need not act "like" animals: We can act as animals, anthropomorphize ourselves [7], subvert the always already posited vanity of the human exception. The irruption here is then not the animal, which we already are [8], but the play: The word "play" dates to Old English & beyond, indicating exercise or occupation with recreative or divertive purpose.[9] In the title, I figure it as ongoing (or as refrain), and in the singular, our own [10] personal becoming-animal. So, if the "like" of the title evokes a realization of something we already are, figuring it as unfamiliar indicates that we are not (yet?) familiar with ourselves, but only akin to ourselves. The irruption thus figures, even partially generates, the sense of self(-as-animal). Are we or aren't we animals? This is a basic tension [11] that animates our culture of comparison & envy.[12] The question animates not only consumption, but life & death: To live & die as an animal connotes something inhuman, a meaningless death. Moreover, to play as an animal is to invoke wildness, a sense of abandon.[13] Life & death with wild abandon: This sounds like seizing the moment, and animality suggests a corresponding closeness to the Earth [14], being of the Earth.[15] (My main reference for this discussion will be Brian Massumi's What Animals Teach Us about Politics [16], although ideas from other references, and likely even my own, will continue to appear.[17]) Adaptability & creativity come together in this gesture, via the unfamiliar, hopefully to affirm variation & difference itself.

A playful mood defines play [18] itself: It is not life & death.[20] It involves, to use Massumi's Latin-derived term, the ludic gesture, an indication (by way of orientation) that behavior is not serious.[21] Does play involve relaxing at home? What constitutes animal familiarity, territory? The latter dynamic varies considerably, and might involve what I've discussed elsewhere as the musical ritual: The musical refrain invokes a territory, perhaps establishes mood (or tone, to mix language further). Territory (and play) is established across sensory modes [22] — and play goes on to define itself via refrain.[23] What of the human animal? How do we play? Actual play might involve considerable abstraction, considerable variation, but it invokes the same [24] ludic gesture: "This is not serious" [25], at least not in the animal sense of life & death. Within the realm of the ludic, however, there is a broad emotional range: Joy, disappointment, excitement, suspense, betrayal, anger... some of these emotions threatening to overflow the boundary of play itself. Ludic affect is very much like real affect (and in the same physical bodies), but isolated somehow — framed in something akin to melodrama, again with the potential to overflow the stage. An aesthetic surplus (or excess) overflows [27] in improvisation between ethical [29] & aesthetic modes.[30] The aesthetic excess of play feeds [31] sexual selection [32,33], already blurring boundaries between the playful & the serious (instrumental): It invokes a politics of (evolutionary) expression. That a politics of expression can be figured via the animal highlights instinct as trans-individual, gestures (ludically) at us humans as more than our individual selves. Moreover, such expression interrogates the Hobbesian turn, the fear of instinct. Why do we fear ourselves?[35]

The human animal not only plays with other humans (or animals), but with objects. How? In part, because by invoking a boundary [36], a precontained realm of affect, the ludic gesture can objectify its contents: Ngai's discussion of cuteness, although not oriented toward play, figures ludic objectification: The cute object is familiar, wants to be consumed, wants to be diminished [37] — wants play. In play, though, the call of the cute object [38] might reverse itself in latent aggression, maybe even disgust [39]: The ludic gesture becomes disoriented. If "cute" figures the playful object, it is "expression" [40] that figures the playful subject: The playful subject is self-directed (per [34]), yet the ludic gesture is deterritorializing [41]: Play becomes a power struggle (as the reversal of cuteness already suggested). To play the same way is to reterritorialize the same way, possibly to the same place, to compete for the same prize.[42] The affective "truth" of play — the reality of affective circulation — thus animates power & potential: We might become more human [43] via play. More human... this is also (part of) Massumi's message... that we are, somehow, unfamiliar to ourselves. The "like" of the gesture title invokes this unfamiliarity, but also voyeurism [46], in its dislocation: Unfamiliarity is generated (sought) to mediate familiarity [47]: The unfamiliar (animal) lets us know ourselves [48], be like ourselves, in turn. If liberal discipline figures life as performance [49], one can play (oneself) like an animal, as an animal [50]. Is such a gesture superfluous? (It might be tautological.[51]) Is sexual selection incoherent? (It is surely aesthetic.) What is the animal aesthetic? (This last seems like an excellent question on which to close.[52])

  1. I signify the unfamiliar here via the four-word gesture title. I could have made it three words otherwise, but emphasizing the singular — the personal — is an aspect as well.

  2. The term "animate" is derived from animal, a living creature having "breath" (sometimes taken to mean soul). Although biologists do not necessarily agree on what defines an animal today, those disagreements are largely in the realm of microbiology, and so I will leave the definition of "animal" only minimally interrogated. (I am thinking of familiar, macroscopic animals.) One concept of the animal has been that it can move via its own power, and this sense of movement is invoked via "animate."

  3. The term also invokes "animacy," a concept with which I began the exploration of hierarchy in Hierarchy as rupture.

  4. This is yet another discussion that will not stray too far from Western thought. (I might mix in a bit of traditional North American allusion, but I actually know little of the thought regarding animals elsewhere. This is probably a serious oversight.)

  5. To be clear, it is/was the human that supposedly uses/used reason & language. (This is the so-called distribution of logos, even if the Cynics might not have approved of playing.) Such a distinction was regularly violated, though, in myths & fables.

  6. Indeed, animals abound in e.g. fables. (That an image is "worthy" is not to say that it is complimentary, although it might be.)

  7. To anthropomorphize ourselves is also to recognize our animality, to perform the double move of becoming-human & becoming-animal.

  8. As in [7], even as we are already animals, we might still require the becoming-animal of play. Identification is often far from secure, and is always countered by proliferation of difference. Proliferation of difference, contextualized into definition by an earlier gesture, not only blurs becoming-animal, but also becoming-human: We differentiate & define humans too, and some are (or have been) said to be more like animals, i.e. not like us.

  9. I have paraphrased a part of the opening paragraph of the OED definition of play. The etymology also suggests dancing & rejoicing, as well as habit — the latter reflected in my use of "occupation" (which does also appear in the OED) above.

  10. Can one own oneself as an animal?

  11. The same tension animates the idea of the posthuman, the idea of transforming the (white, male, straight, etc.) liberal subject by other than augmentation. We are already both more & less than human in this sense, just as we are more & less than animal. In each case, we abandon the typology of set theory, but not necessarily the self.

  12. Per Châtelet, the becoming-animal might be the becoming-pig of capitalist consumption. Deleuze & Guattari themselves speak of "shameful compromises" with our time, and these becomings can invoke compromise. (I guess the only solution is to be uncompromising while becoming.)

  13. Indeed, parties for those active in non-monogamy and/or BDSM circles are usually called "play parties." This is Dionysian imagery, also an evocation of animality, i.e. losing oneself to instinct & sensation. (In some cases, this "losing oneself" can go beyond the bounds of safety, which some people want to figure as a continuation of natural instinct. Such figuration seems to be only self-serving: The human animal evolved with concern for others. Hopefully this is enough said regarding this tangent from the kink scene, although it can be a serious issue there.)

  14. Per [8], many people of the modern era defined "closeness to the Earth" as a measure of being less than fully human. This is an association that must be thoroughly confronted in our own era, not only for the human, but for the animal, and ultimately for the Earth. (I do not know how to make the point forcefully enough here, but most readers are likely already in agreement.)

  15. That we are of the Earth is a simple truth. (Popular "alien" fantasies thus include a danger beyond escapism, a double danger of indifference: We'll simply go to another planet!)

  16. As I've said before, I like having a specific reference around which to orient a discussion. (Either having too much or too little material puts more strain on me, although both happen often enough.)

  17. Readers will know by now that faithfulness to ideas from elsewhere is not a priority for me. I use ideas so as to provoke more. (For the ideas of others, please do turn to their work: Simple!)

  18. A playful mood is often reciprocated, particularly as tone also transmits in the affective (subconscious [19]) domain, but it need not be reciprocated. In that case, someone might be "playing with" someone else, but that person is not playing: Although tone has a tendency to align, asymmetric play is not uncommon.

  19. I do not intend to imply a simple equation between subconscious & affective, but they do align in the previous observation.

  20. The modern Olympic sports movement was supposedly founded with the goal of replacing life & death competition (i.e. war) with controlled play. (I make no claims regarding what actual motives were or weren't involved.)

  21. Speaking of seriousness, I am told that I become far too serious while working on writing such as this. Although I include some playfulness in the text, I become too project-oriented & attached: It's the death drive of repetition, to be totally reductive. (The repetition iterates as the notes expand, and they expand as I write.) I am unsure how to balance a desire to finish this particular project — which may accomplish nothing beyond itself, after all — with a less production-oriented attitude. I do not believe that this writing will simply appear without effort, although one can certainly argue that making it appear is a silly priority. Anyway, this seems to be a personal weakness, one explored at least tangentially elsewhere in this text.

  22. The olfactory mode is famous for its role in territory (and play), for instance. (I mention music above, specifically, because of the overall context of my writing.)

  23. That play, music, territory, refrain, etc. varies between species seems obvious enough. (Likewise hierarchy of sensory modes.)

  24. The similarity of ludic gesture is highly contextual (immanent): Movement between domains might have no outward similarity, depending on how one attempts to circumscribe it. (The self-referential quality of the ludic gesture can be taken as tautological in this transcendental sense.)

  25. Play might turn serious: Regarding [20], sports becomes serious indeed when vast sums of money are at stake. In the everyday world, play can turn "ugly" (as I hear idiomatically) when someone starts taking it "too seriously." Maybe they never felt playful, per [18]: Maybe it was always asymmetric, feigning the ludic gesture to try e.g. to humiliate someone. Massumi figures the animal world as free of such abstract deception, although play might still "turn ugly" according to triggers, unless boundaries are carefully maintained.[26] Play is fragile in this sense.

  26. Maintaining (or respecting) boundaries is the issue — precisely how it is typically phrased — raised parenthetically in [13].

  27. We might watch others play with (aesthetic) interest. (This goes for animals as subjects or objects.) Bateson says that spectatorship is an inherent aspect of play [28]: It spreads affect.

  28. If spectatorship is inherent to play, and if play figures the animal, then we might go on to ask, do animals have privacy? When? What is "privacy" in the animal world? Is it more than hiding from something that (potentially) wants to harm you? Is privacy more than that in the human world?

  29. Play, especially organized sports, has rules, both formal & informal.

  30. So we might figure e.g. humiliation during play as aesthetic, at least from one perspective.

  31. I allude to eating as itself a form of aggression. The food chain cannot be considered playful, in the way I've defined it, so this discussion will have to wait for another time. (There are certainly connections.)

  32. Consider not only the sports hero, but the musician. In both cases, play — according to cliché — leads to sex (but not with one's playmate, I should add).

  33. I only alluded to aesthetics when considering (evolutionary) selection in the discussion of sex in routine. In that sense, improvisation is framed as a desirable (adaptive) capability.[34] Activities that demonstrate improvisational ability can then be framed as (at least latently) sexual.

  34. Improvise is what we do when we are really free? In the sense that improvisation invokes time, occurs in time, it is what fills our free time. (That the contemporary era frames freedom on a stage speaks for itself.)

  35. One easy response to this question is to ask instead, who fears whom? Fear of the other becomes figured as fear of the self: Or, power simply seeks to maintain itself, above the aesthetic excess it cannot understand. (Power seeks to hide its inherently unaesthetic qualities.)

  36. Per Massumi, play guards such a structural border (boundary) via double framing, i.e. non-aggression that also has rules & stakes. "Sovereignty is anti-becoming" within the ludic gesture: In order for the gesture to sustain itself (to animate itself as process — to invoke "animate" again), play cannot yield a winner within play, only differences: Winning is where it ends.

  37. We can further figure the (latent) "desire" of the cute object for sexual domination. Such a discussion quickly becomes gendered (at least in the context of our society).

  38. The call of cuteness is typically figured as visual, although it might involve sound (as I wrote it), etc.

  39. Ngai illustrates (literally) the (potential) reversal of cuteness. (I believe this is also figured as gendered, although her discussion becomes less explicit on that point.)

  40. Per Massumi, improvisatory ludic expression is creativity & instinct together, life moving toward the new. (This remark reprises the final sentence of the first paragraph of this gesture discussion.)

  41. Comedy is a form of play, or of the ludic gesture. The present gesture thus shares many facets with an earlier gesture. (They are all a part of this incomplete interrogation of irruptions of the familiar & unfamiliar.)

  42. A rhetoric of scarcity emerges here, and that rhetoric is carefully cultivated by our culture. We might act otherwise, reterritorialize otherwise.

  43. A recent television ad for Reebok shoes tells us literally this: Be more human. (We are to accomplish this feat via exercise and/or sports, apparently.) This invokes fable for me, but without the animal characters: The people who don't "work out" become the animal characters.[44] This suggestion is in tension with [14], yet mainstream messages support both (and not as their only contradiction).

  44. Growing up in a family that worked in construction & farming, the "workout" culture [45] is alien to me (even though my family was also very involved in sports). People go somewhere to (pay to) exercise because they don't get exercise in their regular life or work? This sums up something of the postmodern condition for me. The whole thing is kind of amazing, and now, people who don't "work out" are inferior? (Perhaps I'm dwelling too much on this tangent, but ponder the reversal here: Physical labor was supposed to be for the lower classes! But a workout isn't labor... it's useless, like art, I guess, and thus more valuable. Anyway, I digress.) But there's truth to it too: My life doesn't seem to involve exercising my shoulders enough, and I feel it negatively. This reversal only gives us more ways to marginalize people. Who, then, is more animal? (What are those hypothetical people who sit on their couches watching television all day?)

  45. The workout culture is said to have originated in Southern California, presumably in association with the movie & television industries. (It might interest some readers to note that the workout culture did not originate in sports. It came to sports only later, within the past couple of decades. I don't want to dwell on this either, but famous athletes of earlier decades were often famous for not taking care of their bodies. Apparently they felt they got enough exercise in their jobs. The development of "strength & conditioning" programs, as separate from practice, can be traced historically during my lifetime.)

  46. Not only might voyeurism spread affect (per [27]), but it can objectify: The object of play is what one watches. (Consider again the final, parenthetical question of [44]. And who is being objectified? The same question can be asked concerning athletes & sports fans.)

  47. Such an observation mirrors flights of boredom, with which the present gesture is paired.

  48. The gesture is timeless, particularly in this restatement, as already suggested in the opening handful of remarks. Various meanings associated with playing like an animal change, but the gesture itself remains, going back (or forward) through the mists of time. (If we want to think of evolution & very long spans of time, we can locate a theoretical beginning to this gesture, but within the context of the existence of humanity, it is timeless.)

  49. The performance of life is highly disciplined, and per Sloterdijk & ascetology, we are always asked for more.

  50. The animal thus becomes the actor. (We already found the stage.)

  51. It is tautological, if we ignore the dislocation of "like." (That "like" is also one of the most annoying verbal tics of my generation, per e.g. Châtelet, who seems to associate it with even younger people, only serves to underscore the power of this dislocation. Can we be ourselves?) Or maybe we don't play?

  52. The degree to which animal music is more or less like human music, depending on which animal (& which human), is one place to begin such an inquiry. Indeed, reference to animal music has already appeared in this article, and further reference to it can be heard in e.g. many contemporary improvisational styles. (Bird song is one longstanding historical reference, but the reader can find a number of other such references in my various discussions of recent albums.)

Knowing the words

The present gesture brings together two big topics, both with extensive literatures [1], knowledge & language. So it will be a challenge to keep a focus on our more specific context, rather than continuing to pursue any of a number of tangents. A basic image for this gesture is song lyrics [2], and that image already suggests such concepts as memory & refrain. The familiar (and with it, the unfamiliar) already figures memory & refrain, and more broadly [3], knowledge & language: This gesture can thus be seen as part of a move to transform epistemology & linguistics with a more general familiarology.[4] Such a transformation cannot be accomplished [5], but the familiar can be positioned transversally: We are familiar with the words we know. Although words might exhibit morphology, they are finite & discrete in character (i.e. there is not a continuous spectrum of words [6]): They instantiate differences into definitions.[7,8] The discrete character of words suggests not only a discrete character for (linguistic) expression [9], but a combinatoric character for (expressed) knowledge: Given a finite set of discrete words, which combinations are "true?"[10] How much knowledge is generated combinatorially, in this manner? Some readers might like to say none, but as long as linguistic expression dominates [11], epistemology relies on language. (This goes for "reason" as well, if we note that logos is structured by language.) Alternately, we might say that language provides the mood or orientation for knowledge.[12]

The irruption of the present gesture can be characterized as a recognition event [13] — even as it exceeds recognition [14]: Not only do we know, we know that we know: This is the irruption itself, the "Aha!" moment of remembering (or intuiting) those lyrics.[15] Although knowing the words exceeds the self [17], the irruption already requires a sense of self. (Familiarity becomes a specific body of thought once it is articulated via the subject, whereas unarticulated familiarity, via affective circulation, might not be subject-centered.[18]) If philosophy is the act of finding new words (or concepts [19]), it is already shaped by the words one knows.[20] Although words & concepts are not the same, neither are they radically different: A concept might be translated [21], a new word might not rise to the level of a new concept [22], but concepts & words are mapped (somehow) via expression. Let's raise the idea of expression generally, i.e. to include non-linguistic expression: Is there non-verbal, non-linguistic theory? I say yes, but it's tenuous in our culture. Moreover, if (per [11]) the symbolic is structured like a language, is it then formed of discrete relations? This is an important point to interrogate [23]: How do we share ideas, if not discretely?[24] One answer is to move beyond (or beneath) recognition events.[25] How do we talk about a thing that isn't a thing?[26,27] If "the real is not determinable by thought" [28], what does it say of expression, let alone discrete expression, of truth (or knowledge)? Are we back to combinatorics? Does knowing the words mean anything more than that? What is the mood of this knowing? Part of the danger of recognition is that it validates us [29]: Knowing the words, at least in the irruption of recognition, validates us as subjects: We are smart, we understand! Open-ended creativity is diverted into the discrete, symbolic realm. Here everything is culture, mediated without distance.[30] The map becomes the territory.[31] Moreover, language itself is assimilated to history, its imperatives always already ordered (hierarchically). Hierarchy is easy to understand [32], and we can continue to feel validated: We belong... somewhere.[33]

As knowing the words evokes a mood of validated superiority, its implicit invocation of binary thinking [34] might also evoke paranoid dread [35]: I need to know those words! So, even as the gesture has a subject (the knower) & an object (the words), it also projects other subject-object relations: Someone else does not know the words, and therefore they are X, whereas I am Y.[36,37] The self-referential potential of language lets us consider more words for our having known the words. Moreover, such potential conditions ways of knowing: If someone "speaks our language" [38], we understand them. If someone tells us (perhaps implicitly) that this is the proper language of knowledge, do we believe them? In our society, this sort of "proper" language increasingly involves science — although it might involve e.g. law [39] — and in particular, prominent ways. Whereas the physical sciences have long been the most prestigious [42], the neoliberal counter-revolution has produced [43] a change in knowledge discourse: Economic language proliferates in rhetorical arguments.[44,45,46] On the one hand, this boggles me, since economics hasn't managed to master its own domain, the economy.[47] Yet examples abound of such "appeal to authority" arguments: I recently read a web article, written from an economics perspective, about how much water one should drink for one's health.[48] Economic analysis is on the rise in sports too.[50] Appeal to a domain of knowledge that has become almost entirely propaganda (if it ever wasn't)? Such a move, on the other hand, is the only way to close the epistemic loop for neoliberalism, so it was always inevitable. (There are other recent trends that aren't strictly about economic rhetoric, but exhibit a similar form.[51,52]) The public evaluates & discusses arguments [53] according to the words it knows, i.e. what is familiar.[54,55] It might also evaluate according to the non-words it doesn't know, i.e. "math." Particularly as the "content" of econometric arguments, such math is often statistical: That statistics are used for deception has become a cliché [56], but even simple arithmetic can be framed in (often implicit) assumptions [57] — it's like stage magic, where the reader is asked to concentrate on the sum of two & three while the rhetorical argument is accomplished via the framing assumptions [58]. People are hypnotized by numbers: They confirm themselves.[60] We might consider this to be part of a clarity fetish: We make the assumptions we need to make in order to have clear answers.[62] We come to focus on information — knowing the words [63] — above meaning, and contemporary technology intensifies this focus [64]: We can all know the words, simply by looking up their definitions on the internet.[65] We're so smart!

So what are the mechanisms of knowledge? How does one evaluate & communicate knowledge claims?[66] These are questions of epistemology, but also of language, "proper" language via refrain & authority. That one is communicating about something (which we might distinguish from expression per se) suggests more subject-object relations: Is the world of objects always already mediated by words?[67] The familiar & the unfamiliar mediate both knowledge & words, but are also mediated themselves by words.[68] This gesture, then, in its irruption of recognition, mediates familiarity, channels us into a particular groove, etched ever-deeper, as the familiar leads further within itself.[69] Note how far such an image is from generation, in particular generation of knowledge. In this mode, even the unfamiliar becomes a kind of confirmation: It might indicate something abstract [70] and/or profound.[71,72] Is the (un)familiar itself old or new? Knowing the words can only happen in the present, with reference to the past. (Knowing the words suggests a finality that excludes the future.[73]) We can continue to interrogate, however [74]: Is the present gesture necessary? In the sense of participating in language, it is — and one need know no more in order to participate in language.[75] The necessary also becomes the impossible [76]: Words circulate with a proliferation of (possibly private) meanings.[77] So there is an urge to standardize language, meaning, value... quickly aligning with the unitary value proposition of neoliberalism & other fundamentalisms. Unitary value invokes authority, and so I can ask again, how does one evaluate & communicate knowledge claims?[78] What are the mechanisms of (sharing) knowledge? What is beyond or beneath or other than the aesthetic detachment [79] of language? If words are not (to be) detached, to what are they attached?[80] Such a — political — question raises the topic of the intellectual as the person who answers such questions.[81] To echo the recognition event of the present gesture, the intellectual has authority by being (recognized as) an intellectual: This is circular, but there are differences.[82,83] Knowing, specifically this kind of language-knowing, causes the intellectual, then?[84] Is there power in knowing the words? It's a strange power, if so, one that seems only to merge with hierarchy [85], or else to disappear in opposition.[86] Such disappearance is not necessarily a problem, as a political objective of voices for all does ultimately involve being out of the way (or being one of many [89]). Does language, specifically the English language, even include the capacity to critique power?[90] Knowing the words might be necessary [92] for (de)constructing that critique, even with its dangers.

  1. If one wanted to be broad, one could include anything scientific (plus much else) under the heading of knowledge literature, and anything written in language (fiction, journalism, etc. etc.) under the heading of language — "literature" being redundant there.

  2. The image of song lyrics suggests a performative quality. (A musical context continues, although it's often very much in the background during these discussions.) Knowing the words is a performance: Whereas I make the (dubious) choice to figure it via recognition, I could have avoided that, by figuring it entirely via performance.

  3. That knowledge & language are more broad than memory & refrain might be an opinion. However, it is an opinion reflected in social discourse more generally.

  4. Apparently the term "familiarology" is already used in the realm of witchcraft as pertaining to the study of (animal?) familiars. I do not mean anything nearly so specific, although perhaps such a study does fit with my move. (Perhaps "spells" are a worthy example to pair with song lyrics. In my totally non-expert experience, i.e. mostly from mainstream media, "knowing the words" is highly significant in that arena.)

  5. I make this statement of impossibility generally, and not merely within the present context, because the affective domain does not yield such points of completion. Any such transformation can only be becoming. (We might also consider it performatively.)

  6. The "the" of the gesture title indicates such finite specificity. The image of lyrics works with "the," as there is typically one (correct) answer for the lyrics of a song. However, it's also worth considering a more open-ended version of this gesture: Try listing every word you know. The hypothetical activity will involve judgments on what qualifies as a (distinct) word, etc. And then, between learning & memory, and maybe changes in judgment, the list might be different next week.

  7. As per the earlier gesture, "identity" is something often designated by words.

  8. Although people can & do learn words implicitly, using them without definition — without knowledge of the definition — can lead to confusion.

  9. I am reminded of the discrete character of musical notes in so many traditions. (This need not be so.)

  10. Note that the combinatoric exercise does yield an infinite number of possibilities, because of the arbitrarily many words that can be hypothetically combined in one statement.

  11. Note that Lacan even considered the subconscious to be structured like a language. (I do not consider such an idea to be helpful.)

  12. An obvious question to ask: How do different languages of the world (major language families, or those spoken by relatively few people) affect cultural conceptions of knowledge, whether in general, or in specific instances? I do not have the command of non-European languages necessary to even make a meaningful attempt at answering this question (although I could probably note some of those specific instances, which might or might not be meaningful in a broader frame). However, I also have little doubt that cultural bias in epistemology, or knowledge production, can be generated by linguistic difference. (This does not exhaust cultural bias, and might be only a reflection of some other source of bias.)

  13. I have already discussed weaknesses in the "recognition" concept, although it seems to be a worthwhile shorthand in the present expository context. (It's a word we "know.") Per [2], maybe this is a mistake.

  14. Knowing the words exceeds recognition in that knowledge can be functional without being recognized.

  15. We can consider similar moments for e.g. instrumental music, recognizing the tune, etc. (Such an interplay of familiarity might be taken as the "communicative" quality of instrumental music, whether internal to itself or externally.) Note, moreover, how — even absent lyrics, or words — recognition events typically suggest words, such as: "The theme is restated in a different key." This effect increases the more (theoretical) training one has in a style, and raises a simple question: If only as a matter of discipline [16], can we think instrumental music without words?

  16. The usual order of discipline, at least in this culture, is the opposite, i.e. to supply words to wordless situations: Such is instantiation (or proof) of knowledge.

  17. The self is exceeded in both the realm of knowledge & the realm of words. (One might argue that it coalesces in this intersection, but that's far too structural for me.)

  18. We might say that the subject itself is an affect.

  19. This is straight from Deleuze, at least the concept language, rather than "merely" words.

  20. It seems fair to ask how one's vocabulary is conditioned ideologically.

  21. The extent to which concepts can be translated is an open question.

  22. Can e.g. forming a plural forge a new concept? It might, but probably does not.

  23. As in [9], Western traditional music is formed from discrete relations. Why? Is it simply a matter of representation? (If we want to call representation a "simple" matter....)

  24. That the subconscious is structured like a language seems to me to be wishful thinking, along the lines of positing that every meaningful problem must have a solution. (I suppose one might call this optimism, but then, cruel optimism can interfere with one's life.) It certainly does make e.g. dream interpretation easier, at least in theory.

  25. I am not offering this answer, i.e. to move beyond or beneath recognition events, hypothetically: It is already standard procedure in the world of advertising. How, then, do we discuss it, without reinscribing the subject as the locus of recognition? (A performative discussion of advertising might not go well.)

  26. That affective relation (perhaps via discourse) generates "the thing" as thing is basic to Heidegger. People who've known me for a long time, and not Heidegger, consider it to be my thing. I don't know how that happened, i.e. I have no (conscious) recognition event to use to trace this relation. Perhaps it is independent, but likely not.

  27. Via Lazzarato, Guattari claims that "there is no language in itself," that signification already indicates individualization of expression. This is a good point to keep in mind, but does not answer the question.

  28. This is a direct quote from Laruelle, discussing the Lacanian real.

  29. The validation inherent to recognition extends into the physical realm via neurotransmitters. It literally feels good.

  30. So says Jameson of the postmodern in general.

  31. A play on the famous remark of Alfred Korzybski.... That words condition knowledge seems constantly to be forgotten.

  32. The stupidest people on the internet seem very able & willing to "explain" the social hierarchy at any moment, for example. They're always happy to help.

  33. Even the lumpenproletariat belongs somewhere. Hierarchy — with its words, such as the big one I just used — is good at that, putting people & things somewhere.

  34. It is the discrete character of words, as well as of true & false, that invokes the binary.

  35. Lee Edelman teases out relations between paranoia & binary thinking while discussing Eve Sedgwick's writings on paranoia. (It might also be worth noting the common statistical fallacy that if there are two possibilities, they each must have a 50% chance of occurring. Elevating unlikely outcomes to 50% might be a good reason for paranoia, particularly as it complements what the mainstream USA media does with political opinions: There must be two, and they are given equal time.)

  36. One can easily objectify oneself with such logic of definition. (Perhaps the prestige of "relativity" is an issue here. It does become an issue of constant comparison — and I might actually believe the previous observation, if I thought that more people knew what relativity, in the physics sense, meant.)

  37. Per the previous gesture, we might believe e.g. that someone who doesn't know the words is an animal, or more like an animal. (We would need to ignore that some animals have demonstrably used language, of course.)

  38. Here I do not mean "language" in the sense of a world language like English or Chinese, although the statement is certainly true in that sense, but in terms of our preferred modes of communication within the same nominal language. For example, only this month, I attended a (mediation) training where we profiled ourselves into one of four different communication styles: intuitive, sensing, feeling, thinking. This sort of profiling is common, whether explicit or not, and there are many other such systems, related & unrelated.

  39. There are various specialized discourses that people might respect in the formal sense, i.e. without actually understanding what they mean. Law is one example, as e.g. legal metaphors come into everyday rhetoric. We could go through Latour's modes looking for others, e.g. religion, politics, etc. Although some might disdain those fields, others treat their rhetoric with respect: While many (at least in USA) would deny they do so with political rhetoric, examination of actual practice suggests otherwise, at least for specific styles of political rhetoric: For instance, ideas such as compromise & moderation permeate general discourse.[40] Beyond that, another current example is the health/medieval industry here in the USA (whose specific kind of scientific rhetoric is different from what I intend to focus on above). We could even highlight such rhetoric in the art world, as in e.g. The Conspiracy of Art.[41] In all these cases, the words themselves might easily take precedence.

  40. That "ideas such as compromise & moderation" are those that permeate discourse, among the other possibilities of political rhetoric, is indicative enough. Society — and with it, wealth disparity as an essential component — must be defended! Conversely, words like "revolution" (The Beatles knew this long before the neoliberal counter-revolution) or "suffering" will likely lead to one's message being rejected immediately. A word such as "responsibility" remains in tension, such as in phrases like "social responsibility," but it's dominant meaning seems to have become defense of the status quo.

  41. It becomes easy for the language of the art world to meld with the rhetoric of power: It might begin as a form of critique, and critique can certainly involve confrontation with the rhetoric of what is being critiqued, but such confrontational alignment can also devolve into mere sarcasm — assimilation. (Plus, some art tempts with a lot of money. Warhol is still making millions.)

  42. One can argue that the prestige of science is based entirely on the demonstrable successes of the physical sciences, i.e. pieces of functional technology that are built according to its laws. (Now the physical sciences seem to be obsessed with e.g. superstrings, suggesting that maybe they have nothing left to do.)

  43. One could argue that the neoliberal counter-revolution did not produce this change, but is only one reflection of it. I suppose that depends on what the terms mean, but in either interpretation, we can locate the production within a particular group of people, and for the same reasons.

  44. To those within their circle, these are not "rhetorical arguments," but rather mathematical proofs.

  45. Per [42], perhaps I should note that I continue to find many e.g. physicists who consider economics' claims as a science to be tenuous at best. For one thing, at least as pertains the important macro questions that actually concern people, there is no such thing as a controlled experiment, no repeatability.

  46. This observation is another way to frame the contemporary ascendence of economics over politics.

  47. I consider this topic in some detail in Remède de Fortune, of course.

  48. I don't remember or care who wrote the article, but they were described as an economics professor.[49] (That the results were irrelevant to an individual reader's health decisions was as expected.)

  49. This is a situation — and it amuses me very much — where response to criticism such as mine would inevitably be related to intent: We're asked a question, and we're doing our best. It amuses me because economists can't seem to acknowledge real outcome-based behavior, even from themselves. That this sort of boondoggle mainly functions to enhance the prestige of economics with the public should be absolutely clear to everyone else. At a minimum, it adds more "noise" to public discourse, the noise being precisely the validation of (neoliberal) economic authority.

  50. Whereas the outcomes of sporting events are, by definition, meaningless, the ascendence of a particular style of discourse there inflects discourse generally. In some sense, sports is the perfect domain for economics: Not only is professional sports a business whose clear purpose is to make money, but the sporting events themselves are carefully isolated within their own sets of rules. I don't mean only the rules of the game (that children know), but the rules of the salary cap, free agency, etc. The world of sports provides the economist's dream: An actual, (mostly) closed experimental laboratory. It even comes with clear results, i.e. wins & losses. That's perfectly okay in a basic sense, but consider the implications. The artificiality of results from the sporting world is rarely emphasized or even acknowledged, and social issues do continue to escape that laboratory.

  51. Evolutionary psychology is another popular domain for pat answers on television. It's amazing how reductive some of these people can be with a straight face, but as already noted, they typically follow the same format as neoliberal economic arguments. (Don't forget that both fields justify all sorts of behavior as "natural" & inevitable. That's the go-to rhetoric for defending misbehavior: We're evolutionarily wired to want profit.... Boys will be boys....)

  52. Another strange trend, and I'm not as sure why this is happening, is advertising with bizarre ahistorical imagery, including randomly wrong dates. As I write this, there is a television spot featuring Progressive Insurance's spokesperson meeting someone I can only conclude is supposed to be Queen Elizabeth I (from the imagery), with the large caption "England, 1459." Not so long ago, there was a television ad — I think it was for Taco Bell — recalling video from some nonexistent (and absurd) 1960s riot. The latter, working to confuse memory of the 60s, makes sense to me. The former is some kind of joke? (The ad itself has a humorous tone, with other scenes.) Perhaps it's some kind of market research for future propaganda.

  53. Discussion of rhetorical points tends to continue to use the same phrases, indicating that this is the important point for agreement. (Slogans have a long political history, of course.) I would not call this discussion, at least not in the sense of analysis, but rather refrain.

  54. One could presumably construct an "argument" entirely in pastiche via a sequence of familiar (and trusted, of course) phrases that appear to fit together via some means (assonance, say, to pick a random example). Hit enough points of familiarity, and the "conclusion" will be believed — if not consciously, it will still be affective. (Perhaps this is the point, somehow, of the Progressive ad mentioned in [52].)

  55. "The public evaluates ... according to ... what is familiar" can be noted as a general thesis for this essay.

  56. Mark Twain noted the situation clearly enough. On a more personal note, my wife developed the statistics course for her high school district, and one big emphasis is looking at stats presented in various campaigns (both commercial & public) with a skeptical eye. Students do learn this, if explicitly taught. (However, let me also be clear that mere skepticism, absent anything else, will not get one any closer to truth.)

  57. Arithmetic itself invokes a dualist assumption, particularly in conjunction with binary logic. Once one introduces a logic of negation, i.e. proof by contradiction & the like, one is fully embedded in the bourgeois regime. (This is more difficult for some people to accept than some of the other arguments noted in this paragraph, because abstraction is so highly mediated.)

  58. I've seen so many of these — where the argument is embedded in half a phrase of seemingly innocent introduction, followed by paragraphs of (accurate) arithmetic — that I don't even know where to begin with examples. Constructing a model (i.e. assumptions) so that mathematics can be applied is most of the work of applied mathematics: The point is that, once one has constructed a workable model, doing the math is the easy part.[59]

  59. Let's be clear: Constructing a model such that the math is easy (if only for a computer) is one criterion for evaluating a model. (There's the simple followup question that if the mathematics a model yields is not solvable anyway, what is the point of having the model?) This phenomenon is analogous to the kind of "combinatoric" linguistic knowledge already discussed: We remain within a territory we can or have mastered. (Economists use this argument all the time, which is why they are the paradigm here: Sure, we're making assumptions, but if we don't make these assumptions, we can't solve the problem mathematically! Listen for this argument: It's very popular, and becoming more so.)

  60. Numbers are "objective" (and operations such as addition have correct answers), so they bypass skepticism. Let me point out something very simple: A number is an abstraction.[61]

  61. The neo-Platonic fallacy would have us believe that an abstraction is somehow more real, not less. (Readers will know that I do not align Platonism with Plato himself.)

  62. The discussion of mathematical models in [59] does not nearly exhaust the topic of the clarity fetish: Difference into definition enacts it as a gesture, for instance. Typology itself is an expression of the clarity fetish.

  63. As articulated, not knowing the non-words emphasizes the importance of information & form for us, in something of a paradoxical move. (As we have seen, though, this sort of double move is characteristic of modernity, and dialectical "progress" generally.)

  64. Proponents of technology want to present it as neutral in exactly this sense: It simply allows more possibilities. It's a superficial sense of responsibility, just as information is a superficial sense of meaning. (Perhaps I should not be speaking of "technology" generally, but more specifically of the contemporary revolution in information technology & networks.)

  65. Our personal computing devices can perform the all-important arithmetic for us, too, if we don't feel confident with that.

  66. I could as well be asking here about the nature of authority....

  67. How might we mediate e.g. jouissance, if other than via words? What about unmediated jouissance? Is it possible in our society? (One approach, as suggested, is to dissolve the subject-object duality.)

  68. We can thus consider language to be a kind of circulation.

  69. I have already discussed, particularly in Chapter II, how the familiar tends to lead further within (or inside) itself.

  70. We are taught that abstraction is a higher kind of thought. (The adjective "higher" might make some sense, as long as we continue to consider immanence by way of contrast. The next & final gesture will treat this topic from another angle.)

  71. Relation between the unfamiliar & proof is already figured via abstraction in [63] & [61].

  72. Can the unfamiliar satisfy the clarity fetish? Per [62], a newly invented term (or concept?) might do exactly that.

  73. Knowing the words is thus a fitting gesture for the logic of post-. It indicates both history's end & triumph. (As such ends do. We might also want to consider enunciative events themselves, but the present gesture is not enunciative.)

  74. Note that I view interrogation as more than asking, and the distinction is in the hiatus embedded in the term itself: Interrogation involves a gap, and this gap replays over time. We ask... things happen... we ask again. Who then constructs the refrain, i.e. the world?

  75. Participating in language is enough to give our lives human meaning? (Playing like an animal gives new meaning to language games....)

  76. The dialectic of necessary & impossible (i.e. the double bind) invokes ideological distortion: We cannot be ourselves, but what else are we? (Such is identification in general.)

  77. Circulation of words engenders chains of (discrete) meanings. (Such chains can, of course, be radicalized, as by Humpty Dumpty. Indeed, radicalized meaning has become typical of contemporary politics.)

  78. Authority itself is a form of influence, per e.g. Cialdini: This observation simply displaces the question into how one establishes authority.

  79. As usual, I would prefer to figure aesthetics as other than detached, even though it suggests (or even imposes) object relations: We might ask how the aesthetics of language figures language across other domains, for instance, but this is beyond the present discussion.

  80. The answer to this rhetorical question is actually easy: Words are to be attached to bodies.

  81. I make no normative claim here, about who should answer, etc. These concluding observations concern (some of) those who do answer (perform).

  82. Laruelle distinguishes the dominant intellectual, i.e. someone imposed (transcendentally) from outside, from the "determined" intellectual, someone arising from circumstances. (The latter idea echoes Gramsci's working class, or "organic," intellectual, in turn.) Laruelle goes on to describe modes of operation for these two different figures. (The duality is, perhaps, rather too neat.)

  83. In a dual mode similar to Laruelle's, but returning to the domain of language per se, Pasolini (via Lazzarato) contrasts language of the superstructure with language of the infrastructure, and suggests that the battle is over what language is signifying — not what it is specifically signifying, but what sort of language is signifying & what sort is asignifying. (That philosophical duality — and other intellectual discourse — becomes asignifying rewords one of the basic points of my series of articles, beginning with Hierarchy as rupture.)

  84. Knowing leads to more knowing, or at least more desire, as figured by [69]? Such desire sounds potentially dangerous, leading to exclusion as alluded in [81].

  85. Power brings abuse of power, as partially interrogated in [82]. (This is always already a part of the figure of the intellectual.)

  86. The dominant anti-intellectualism of contemporary USA is, of course, a particular kind of anti-. As already discussed in remarks on the ascendence of economic language, some styles of intellectualism are encouraged. This distinction is determined according to how they fit with the dominant hierarchy. (One might say that it's the "60s" intellectuals who are under attack — hence the culture wars [87], where victory has already been declared.)

  87. The culture wars can be framed as a struggle to be heard, which is the basic struggle of any intellectual conflict. Part of that struggle can easily become — we see it in e.g. [82], and I do not claim to be immune — the exclusion or condemnation of other intellectuals, which can in turn slide easily into (implicit) exclusion of non-intellectuals (whatever that term might mean). Despite the duality he introduces, Laruelle does try to focus attention back on "the victim." Such a struggle to be heard, including such struggle by victims, becomes performative — with knowing the words pushed (appropriately [88]) to the background.

  88. One of the easiest ways to silence victims is to insist that their concerns (or narratives) be articulated "appropriately." It doesn't matter what the latter term means; rather, it's the imposition of external judgment that enacts marginalization. (Bodily performance becomes one way to refuse articulation.)

  89. Such a sense of the intellectual always includes a desire to disappear (becoming imperceptible, more broadly).

  90. This question is from Heather Busch. (One motivation for the question is the reflexive use of terms such as "lame" or "gay" [91], i.e. terms contributing to the further marginalization of already marginalized people, in popular critique. What is a substitute? I don't even want to use "sucks" — almost canonic for my age cohort, as paired with "rocks" — for similar reasons. So how then does one construct a language of critique?)

  91. In the context of intellectualism, we might also want to be concerned about terms such as "stupid," etc.

  92. I do not intend rhetorical understatement: I am unsure if knowing the words is necessary for critique. We might need entirely different forms of expression.[93] (So other arts & different modalities?)

  93. As I've discussed explicitly in my End of Writing series since 2001, we also need to consider the possibility that writing will disappear as a mainstream medium in the near future. (What a crazy topic to be writing about? I believe that it can be engaged unironically.) This is not necessarily a tragedy: It's an opportunity to reconfigure abstraction & authority in communication, to engage different kinds of performance.

States over nature

This final gesture [1] is, in a sense, superfluous by definition: If "nature" is what always already (naturally) happens, then either the erection or the observation of something else, something "over" this "fundamental" level, is additional, and so likely a distortion. Whereas such an arbitrary quality does figure the gesture, let's consider the words more carefully: Presumably [2], I could have chosen a less loaded term than "nature": On the one hand, it indicates, via Latin, "the essential qualities or properties of a thing."[3] On the other, nature is "the creative and regulative physical power ... operating in the material world" [4,5] "before the foundation of organized society." Particularly with the adjective "natural," it comes to suggest a "sense of belonging." (The notion that the natural prefigures "society" continues to exert strong rhetorical power.[6]) In an attempt to interrogate the words of this gesture together, let's move immediately to states: A state is a "condition, manner of existing,"[7] as well as "a particular form of polity or government." I want to continue to emphasize both of these senses of "state" together, but to figure the language of this gesture further, state also means "proper or normal condition," as well as rank or dignity, as in "status." So let me note this last meaning [8] as the motivation for using "over" as a preposition here: The dignity of a state places it over (mere) nature. Moreover, state, as "proper or normal condition," has a very similar meaning to nature, as "essential qualities or properties": The erection or observation of states over nature might thus serve to emphasize the naturalness of nature. Indeed, in this sense, nature projects a need for states (in order to consummate its own normality or naturalness [9], by observing it as such). So what does this gesture indicate? What is its motion, if not simple redundancy or obfuscation? Let me first note in response that the title probably meant something to the reader without me explaining it. If nature is fluid & exceeds description [10], then states are an attempt to provide regulation & description: States are a kind of typology with nature as its object. States invoke a kind of equilibrium [12,13], and a perspective via states is a simplified (possibly holistic [14]) perspective.[15] A final, critical observation concerning the language of the present gesture is that "nature" does not have a clear meaning [16]: I figured it as fundamental above, but it is always elusive in this sense, always in excess.[17,18]

After a little tour through knowing the words [19], let me ask more explicitly: Is the gesture superfluous? That depends on whether we want to describe or manage: As an expression of duality, abstraction (or transcendence) as collective sum of immanence [20], the gesture is a possible means for interrogating the real.[21] Why interrogate the real? Because we want to know it: Survival fades seamlessly into instrumentality [22], and states evoke both description & management. Knowing is a means of using, and description is a kind of management (or vice versa [23]).[24] In other words, we can also figure the present gesture as a recognition event: Interrogating the real (or nature) is inherent to living, but any (formalized) description (or recognition) may be superfluous.[25] (Whether the gesture involves a specific sense of self depends on particular states and how they are figured.[26]) The irruption is then multiple, multiple states, i.e. multiple descriptions and/or forms of management. (Whether these are erected or observed will be left indeterminate for now: The gesture itself does not distinguish.) Are such states coherent? States are an attempt to make nature coherent, and so some incoherence will follow the gesture, even if states themselves impose an internal consistency [27,28]: The incoherence of states follows from the incoherence of nature (the real), over which they are erected-observed. (An irruption in the becoming might not generate such incoherence [29], so we will return to that topic.) What are these states? As manners of existing, they cannot be enumerated (particularly pace the "becoming" remark), but we can consider some such prominent irruptions: I have already mentioned Latour's modes, and most can be considered to be states in the present sense.[30] We can consider other, similar social states such as sports or war (which could be modes of existence, or "manners," per the dictionary definition of states).[32] Moreover, the idea of "nature" is itself constructed [33], and whereas states might not require a self, "nature" does require an observer (or dual): Culture is then a state erected on this incoherent nature. It starts to sound very familiar.[34]

Per the opening remarks on superfluousness, we might consider nature to be familiar & states to be unfamiliar. Setting aside the familiarity of states for the moment, per the previous remarks, it is culture that is the (constructed) domain of the familiar in our society [36], leaving the unfamiliar to be a part of nature — something to be discovered. The gesture might [37] then mediate the unfamiliar into states, which in turn generate (increasing) familiarity.[38] States continue to act via such mediation [39], and indeed this gesture is amenable to considering a time series: The many potential, virtual, & actual states did not arise at once, fully formed. Moreover, they become more familiar with time (even as new states are generated, via mediation). The earlier dictionary citation placed nature "before the foundation of organized society" — is that even a time? We can consider it to be prior to this gesture, although that need not be a real time.[40] Just as I began the brief historical summary of [33] with Aristotle, much of Western thought — and in turn, familiarity itself? — is said to begin with Ancient Greece: Our history of states is figured through Greece, although we could mention Egypt, Mesopotamia, etc. What sort of states did these people have, by which I mean not only polities, but manners of existing? Various terms (states) come down to us, whether as forms of government or concepts for summarizing the real.[41] Even as they become so familiar, we must continue to realize their exoticism: Any cut of the real, as the present gesture is, is arbitrary, even if repeated or maintained century after century: Conquered people receive the same familiar (although perhaps unfamiliar to them) states. Even forms of family were (and still are [42]) figured as familiar or unfamiliar (according to state): It all gets categorized [43] in a great proliferation of states.[44] As the reader has likely already noticed, and so waits impatiently for me to observe, the state of nature itself was part of that proliferation. (In this sense, nature is unreal.[45]) The gesture thus turns inside out [46], pushing the real away, endlessly weaving the familiar & the unfamiliar.[47,48]

To describe nature as a state confuses the gesture, in some sense, but it is no less potent: States, in their simplification [49], differentiate themselves, including from the state of nature. Indeed, "nature" continues to become more intensely rhetorical.[50] Moreover, nature as a state figures the self both as prior ("human nature") & via sensation (what we perceive around us): The self (or at least the subject) becomes a state over nature, but also permeated by nature.[51,52] (Any coherence or incoherence is once again suspended in the becoming of irruption.[53]) The orientation of the present gesture has already been figured as desire (or need) to interrogate the real, but its affective tone extends beyond instrumentality [54]: As the subject (as a state) illustrates, the gesture [55] encompasses the entire emotional range: Emotions are themselves states [56], even "natural" states, so that emotional irruption marks a large regime for the gesture. What are some emotional responses figuring the contemporary rhetoric (or theatrics, per [50]) of nature? One dominant trope concerns scarcity [57,58]: It provides a means not only for dividing people into "haves" & "have nots" (with resulting prestige & hierarchy [59]), but in figuring what limits are "natural" & what are not.[60,61] Playing (like an animal [62]) evokes a particular affective tone as well, presumably natural in its animality [63], but also doubled via the sheer aggression of the "food chain."[64] (Is the state of boredom also natural?[65]) So what of faith in institutions?[66] Are institutions themselves natural? Returning to a historical (or time series) orientation, the early modern (as opposed to contemporary) era was very concerned with such questions: Hume [68] is particularly known for invoking "natural" causes for institutional structures (and, therefore, world empire) [69]: Not only is the Western state caused inevitably [70], but the king (and later, businessman) frees himself from fate [71], in a great doubling: Naturalism itself [72] reifies the structures of analogism, enacting states over nature, canceling (or obscuring [73]) the differences from which it arose.[74] Somehow [75] the contemporary era undoes the privilege of nature [76] while retaining its modern doubling. As a contemporary topic, then, we might ask e.g. whether privacy concerns state or nature? Is privacy natural?[77] (It is clearly a state.) Does it concern only states? How might the privilege of nature figure such a topic? (We might also want to consider, then, how Laclau & others [78] figure e.g. ethical investment via gaps & radicality: The contemporary double bind must be confronted in all its modern folding [80], traversed somehow.)

The present gesture, in some sense, is a study in object relations: Whereas the multiple irrupted states might be figured subjectively, they become objects in turn.[81] Moreover, the gesture serves to thoroughly objectify "nature," as a kind of anti-privileged object of objects: It becomes a scaffold for typology (with its own states-objects), the "observed" in duality. What then is the dual, the observer? The multiple states invoke this duality, as mediation, but it is once again the liberal subject (perhaps collectively [82]) that observes [83]: The cultural dual must invoke nature as the observed per se.[84] How can nature become an actor (again)? Its basic theater is being reconstituted via ecology & environmentalism, but the roles are disputed.[85] I had left the question of erection or observation as indeterminate for the gesture, but this is exactly the sort of question that figures subject-object relations. What is the difference between erecting & observing a state? The latter might reflect what someone else has already done, but such observation can serve as erection (via refrain) — observing can be imposition, and a state might be erected only in the refrain of observation.[86] The erected state can then act, even if erected via observation alone: States need not engage (only) in dual relations among themselves, even if they are based on duality.[87] They might be familiar or unfamiliar [88,89], perhaps both at once. How do we interrogate such states? (If the gesture is inevitable in general, a part of interrogating the real [90], then we must consider states individually.) One way to interrogate is to refuse the separation of states, their draw to be considered only within themselves [91]: In other words, we can trace their mutual imbrication with nature [92] (and other states [93]). Turning finally to polity per se, we can observe clearly the inclination of states to separate themselves.[94] How are these states mutually imbricated? Their own concept arises from both international law [95] & capitalism [96], differentially applied [99,100], and the use of states — whatever use — reflects such tracing or interrogation [101]: The level at which states tend to separate is different from the level at which they are (naturally [102]) permeated.[103] So what is the nature of difference, absent (or beneath the reification of) states?[104] Deleuze initially broke difference in four, as identity, opposition, analogy, & resemblance: Such relations maintain between states, are states.[105] So our task becomes to think difference — not necessarily as natural [106] — but as unirrupted, i.e. not via states [107]: I might suggest, then [111], thinking this gesture from the middle, i.e. as motion without object. However, the gesture, as articulated in the title, does use the specific preposition "over" — indicative of hierarchy.[112] A different preposition would yield different motion, while indeterminate preposition leaves motion open to difference.

  1. I should emphasize that the present gesture is "final" only in the context of the fairly arbitrary choices made to structure Chapter III.

  2. I don't actually have a substitute for "nature" in mind at the moment, but perhaps that will change in the course of this discussion. (Apparently it didn't.)

  3. The quote is from the OED, the first phrase of the first definition. Subsequent quotes are from the same (noun) entry. I recommend reading the entire entry, if at all convenient.

  4. This sense yields the "laws of nature." Note also that the definition, "inherent dominating power," appears prior to this. (The OED can be quite unabashed sometimes. And people say it isn't political....)

  5. Such a power was said to be female, dating already to the same era as the establishment of the term in English. (The present gesture can be viewed as enacting a variety of prejudices, depending on who is identified with "nature.")

  6. One such mode of rhetorical power is the "sense of belonging" just noted.

  7. Once again, I turn to the OED. Note also that the etymology of the term state, while disputed, has hierarchical implications already in its relation to "estate."

  8. State as in status is only the last meaning that I mention here. It is far from the end of the OED entry.

  9. The imposition of normality onto nature should already be a subject of concern, particularly in the context of queer theory, so maybe these definitions are not really so similar.

  10. In particular, via the previous gesture discussion, the fluidity of nature exceeds the non-fluid (i.e. equilibrium) character [11] of economic description.

  11. It would have been natural to write "the non-fluid nature" here, or even state, etc. In the sense that these terms are synonyms, "character" is too. (This linguistic note illustrates our present knot.)

  12. The image of equilibrium evokes, perhaps, the discipline of thermodynamics: States are very much equilibrium, macroscopic qualities in that sense (i.e. akin to pressure, temperature), averaging statistical (i.e. not interrogated in detail) "molecular" (smaller) motion. Note how the thermodynamic model invokes transcendence to place its state functions "over" the individual activity that results in the state. (In other words, there is no such thing as "temperature" in statistical mechanics itself.) In the case of thermodynamics, such transcendence is immediately (naïvely) justified by the difference in physical size between ourselves (as observers) & molecules in a gas: We can't see the individual molecules anyway.

  13. Note that this observation applies to both senses of "state" that I want to consider here. I will (mostly) try to treat these two senses together.

  14. At its most basic, the holistic gesture is one of summarizing complexity by one term. (People probably do need the occasional reminder that everything is connected. You see, I can say something nice about transcendentalism. On that point, note the "physical size" observation of [12]: We, at least as individuals, & the Earth are not on the same physical scale.)

  15. We might also say that states are one way to perform difference into definition.

  16. Nature is defined in opposition to something else. Even as "essential quality," it involves external judgment. What is essential? (Descola makes the arbitrary quality of the term "nature" clear with respect to culture.)

  17. One can observe a parallel with the Lacanian sense of the real. This is an important sense I want to figure here.

  18. We can consider nature to be in excess of e.g. ecological destruction: Nature would be whatever is left after the hypothetical (ecological) destruction of humanity, say.

  19. As we just observed, knowing the words is always oriented on the past.

  20. Continuing the analogy of [12], pressure & temperature are "sums" of the collective motion of molecules in a gas.

  21. For all their potential problems, dualities are generally means for interrogating the real. (We might call them the yes/no, i.e. closed-ended, questions of such a repertory.)

  22. I suggest that the reader consider possible firm boundaries between survival & instrumentality: At what point does an act of survival (or living) become using the world? Is breathing instrumental? (Clearly so, even if figured as involuntary.) In ecology, outputs are inputs, etc.

  23. Proof that a description is adequate is often claimed via the results of management: If the world responds as we say it will, according to our provocation (such as holding an object out over a balcony & letting go), then we say our description is adequate.

  24. People whose identities are defined by others know that description is a kind of management. (Or at least they might know: Some are happy to be defined by others, or in denial about it.)

  25. Formalized description not only may be superfluous, but is likely incorrect — or a distortion, as I put it in the previous paragraph — in one or more ways. (It might, however, be useful.)

  26. We can consider poles on the topic of the self within this gesture: If the "state" is the subject itself, then a sense of self is already implied. If the state is, instead, something to do with humanity as a whole, it might not invoke the self. Likewise if it has little or nothing to do with humanity: The laws of gravity (the example of [23]) do not invoke a sense of self (although relativity might).

  27. A state, as I've used it here — as both a manner of existing & form of government — need not be a territory, but any fully irrupted state will involve similar inherent contradiction.

  28. Recall the notions of sexual incoherence discussed with sex in routine: That gesture could be refigured as a kind of state over nature: What exactly is sex? Once we have our definition, we have our state. (And per [27], precision will bring contradiction.)

  29. Such a becoming need not start "from" anywhere. Rather, it is relation from the middle. In other words, we generate both the incoherence of nature & states together, as the two poles of gestural relation.

  30. Reproduction, habit, technology, fiction, reference, politics, law, religion, attachment, organization, & morality [31] are all states in the sense of this gesture. (We can observe this easily enough by inquiring about "the state of" any of these.) The (irreversible?) result of "double click" is very much a state. Metamorphosis & network can be considered more in the manner of relation (or non-relation in the case of the first), although they might reflect a state of relation. The mode I've figured most differently here is preposition (in part, following Ngai on tone).

  31. I consider "morality" to be especially incoherent, but that discussion will need to wait for a hypothetical future article.

  32. I leave it to the reader to construct columns analogous to Latour's chart for sports & war. (What with the perpetual wars on drugs, terror, etc., it seems like a serious mistake to omit war as a mode.)

  33. Descola discusses some of the history of the concept of nature: Aristotle's taxonomy as a (decontextualized) catalog of causes (i.e. what I might call arbitrary cuts), Christianity declaring humanity itself to be transcendent, scientists (per Aristotle) needing a conceptual domain of study, etc. The West went on to evaluate other people according to whether they had similar concepts of nature — even to the point of inventing the notion of the supernatural. These evaluations can be figured via the familiar: Are the ideas of other people familiar? (Are they like us?) The unfamiliar figures the supernatural, i.e. what is beyond the "nature" concept (and, in turn, not amenable to science).

  34. When it comes to ideas like nature & culture, familiarity fades into compulsion very easily, i.e. our society comes to dictate some rather arbitrary choices. (It even comes to believe e.g. that a taxonomy such as Aristotle's is not arbitrary — although it searches for a better taxonomy, in the singular.[35])

  35. Note that taxonomy, relying on such concepts as genus & species, continues to figure much thought via the (English adjectives) general & specific. (Taxonomy thus permeates my own exposition, even if I might prefer it to be otherwise.)

  36. Although culture is the domain of the familiar in our society, that does not mean we are all familiar with everything in culture. Sometimes unfamiliarity is figured as an aspect of the "nature" underlying culture. Sometimes we are simply unfamiliar with something lying wholly within the domain of culture (to the extent that such a domain is even coherent): I've not tried every type of yogurt, for instance (if you'll forgive the double meaning).

  37. The gesture might not do anything in this sense: It might simply proliferate empty rhetoric. (This might, then, yield a refrain, i.e. pure generation unmediated by "nature.")

  38. The familiar always generates the familiar, but I repeat myself. (For example, as already considered in this discussion, culture — as familiar — continues to propagate itself. I could rephrase this observation in terms of families per se.)

  39. That states mediate, i.e. seek simplification & discard details, should be apparent: They emerge from the incoherent mass of the real, and are always simpler.

  40. Nature is sometimes identified with primordial time. (If it's before everything, that figures it as unreal, Edenic one might say.)

  41. Concepts of summary & polity correspond readily enough, with e.g. the suppression of women or the institution of slavery being states in both senses. In other words, such a polity was accomplished via (or on top of) summary concepts of nature: Some people simply can or cannot.

  42. Is the (Western) nuclear family canonically familiar? (It seems that argument is being made.)

  43. Aristotle's taxonomy (per [35]) again.... (Let us not forget that Aristotle was there to teach Alexander about hierarchy, initiating the first historical European empire, which emerged from a society that believed it invented democracy. This might seem strange, if the history weren't so well-known: Familiar & unfamiliar mixing again.)

  44. The unitary state-as-polity yields that many more states-as-conditions. Such proliferation of the latter continues apace under the current (fundamentalist) claim to unity for the former.

  45. The unreality of the state of nature figures the West's political involvement with "the environment" as well.

  46. It would be misleading, in the historical sense, to discuss an "inversion" of the gesture, because being "close to nature" has been figured as worthy of oppression. That this follows from the West's instrumental sense of nature (starting, perhaps, with science) is obvious enough, although other rhetoric could have been engaged. The "nature" rhetoric regarding other peoples could be seen as, in part, the West's reaction to its own exoticism.

  47. Weaving the familiar & unfamiliar... this is governmentality. It can make for quite a tapestry. (Hopefully I have teased out some of these threads here in Chapter III.)

  48. Absent both ground & irruption (as in e.g. [29]), such weaving can occur entirely within the domain of affective circulation. (This is not the emphasis of Chapter III, however.)

  49. Note that states-as-polities require simplification, just as summarizing a condition or manner into a "state" does. The interchangeability of citizens (votes), or the absolute power of a monarch, are such simplifying moves.

  50. Instead of relying on rhetorical tropes, we could adopt performance imagery and describe "nature" as increasingly theatrical. That might be the image for the modern age. Indeed, in figuring the zany, Ngai remarks on "early modern convergence of marketplace & theater." In that sense, nature provides a place... a place outside of civilization per se, where a different sort of theatrics maintains. Today we might call this the theater of the environment, and of course it relies on such tropes as separating humanity from nature (in this case, a longtime Christian concept). Nietzsche remarked that actors have become the masters (and he never even knew a Reagan presidency): Who or what are the actors of nature? We might tend toward invoking holism in response (as per [14]), but the actors must be identified in order to fully engage with theatric imagery. (I leave this question open.)

  51. The environmental debate implicitly separates humanity & nature. Indeed, the debate is engaged on such questions as whether climate change is natural or caused by human activity — note, of course, that this is the frame presented by those who want to continue harmful (and profitable) activity. That humans are themselves "natural" could be seen as reason to discard the entire question: Do as thou wilt! (Natural or not, we can still ask whether humans are harming humans via the environment.)

  52. The "natural" subject might be figured as fully improvisatory, i.e. engaged in free activity during free time. (This is far from the irruption of work cleaving life.)

  53. Such a suspension was already suggested by [29]: The dual relation of the self to nature once again emphasizes the middle ground of relation, generating poles that become more incoherent as they become more rigid. (Perceiving self was already erected on this indeterminacy, feedback between the prior & ongoing perception.) As suggested by [48], incoherence can be avoided by avoiding the poles, in this case, (the) states themselves.

  54. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that instrumentality itself can evoke a broad range of emotion.

  55. It might be more accurate to characterize the present gesture as many gestures, and indeed I have mentioned such multiplicity already. However, I will continue to use the singular, in parallel with previous gesture discussions.

  56. That one is "in a state" when overcome by emotion is a popular trope. (Note that the trope has been very compatible with the queer, theoretical & otherwise.)

  57. I move, perhaps too quickly, from emotions per se to tropes, i.e. figures that evoke a range of emotional responses (depending on one's perspective).

  58. Scarcity is one of the most powerful (contemporary?) principles of influence, according to Cialdini.

  59. Note that, as a principle, scarcity is figured as independent of need or excellence, etc. People choose the scarce item even when they observe that it has no superior quality. (It is thus a reflection of hierarchical thinking.)

  60. The topic of environmental (or natural) limits is subject to a variety of rhetoric: It is not so easy to separate human decisions that create (perhaps intentionally) scarcity. For example, we can create fresh water (albeit expensively) from purely chemical processes, just as we can contaminate (previously) fresh water.

  61. We are also told that more risk should mean more reward. Rarely is it asked why the risk should be undertaken in the first place: Perhaps it should go unrewarded because it's harmful. (The risk orientation of early modern imperialism continues to be deeply ingrained. Note how one-sided any reward is/was: The people suffering the most harm might get nothing, while the person putting them at risk is glorified. This is still the basic mode of big business — just as it was with the early explorers.) So we risk scarce resources, hoping for (if not demanding) reward, with little regard for limits.

  62. Playing unlike an animal might suggest sports, which has its own affective tone (and reward structure).

  63. That "the animal" figures nature almost goes without saying. (Of course, [5] & [46] also suggest how to be natural is to be inferior, a trope the animal must also endure).

  64. It might be unfair to characterize the food chain as aggressive, but it certainly does involve much of life & death. (It is also indisputably "natural.")

  65. Some might like to claim boredom as a specifically contemporary problem, and so not natural in this sense. Such a distinction becomes meaningless at some point, though, as we've seen.

  66. Although I mention "faith" as an emotional response in this context, taking control of (political) institutions is a significant topic for contemporary critique. E.g. Connolly makes such a call. (Agamben takes the related position that law itself is linked to the curse, and so politics must break the curse in order to use the law, and with it, speech.[67] So how does one break the curse and enact political control of institutions? It would appear that one must break out of history.)

  67. Is this why swearing is so popular? (Yes, that's a bit of a joke, but perhaps more serious than it might seem.)

  68. Hume is not technically early modern, but he does summarize many earlier concerns & ideas, building upon those of e.g. Hobbes & Locke. (I might, instead, say that early modern political philosophy was consummated with Hume, invoking the various other Enlightenment era syntheses. Western rule was fully established, rhetorically, as right & good: Political conquest becomes, to quote the term of the hour, "empirical," something whose causes are to be observed according to the principles of science: It confirms its value via its actuality.)

  69. According to E.M. Dadlez in Mirrors to One Another: Emotion and Value in Jane Austen and David Hume, Hume finds a mirror in fiction with Austen, who illustrates similar values & ideas, particularly the useful & the good (and all the rationalizations that they entail). Such an analysis is suggestive of the unified stance of imperial England, a stance undoubtedly undertaken at least in part by way of apology (in the classic sense).

  70. Today, neoliberal rhetoric claims that it is not the state that is inevitable — or, rather, even if it is inevitable, it is still "unnatural" somehow, and so the enemy — but rather the "free market." The contemporary move generally pushes states into the background, in order to prioritize other (deterritorializing) forces.

  71. To free oneself from fate (or fortune) is exactly the modern impulse, as I've defined & illustrated it in Remède de Fortune. The "doubling" of nature can be observed closely here: Fate is natural; freeing oneself from fate is natural. (This double posed expository problems for the earlier article, particularly in assertion two on materiality. Indeed, note that materiality was already raised in the second definition quoted for "nature" above. As I've also already noted subsequently, Latour rather successfully interrogates the state of materiality.)

  72. Naturalism is thus a principle creation of the early modern era. (Analogism is how Descola defines the medieval European world view, along with that of many Asian cultures.)

  73. It might be more accurate to talk of such (historical) differences becoming disembedded (while becoming more embedded), encapsulated within later ideas (like spores), in such a way that they cannot be interrogated directly.

  74. An observation on the canceling of difference returns us to the opening mood of this gesture, prior to observing that nature is itself a state: Call this the modern orientation.

  75. The "somehow" relates to power, specifically the retention of historical (modern) power (i.e. inheritance) through contemporary reconfigurations via post- (per [70]). In other words, the inevitability of Western wealth might be based on concepts & ideas we can no longer accept, but we still believe in the inevitability of Western wealth in the postcolonial period! (Once again, its actuality supplies the necessary logic, together with denial of its structural implications.)

  76. We claim total mastery of nature. (This does not preclude destroying ourselves, apparently.)

  77. What might "natural" privacy really be like? (Most of our contemporary privacy issues concern very contemporary topics. But of course, we can always answer that anything people do is natural. Call such a retort neo-Humean! I've even used "'progress' is whatever happens" as a similar observation in the past.)

  78. As another example, Badiou (introducing Châtelet) talks of symmetry breaking, or finding a position of vertigo. (Personally, I find a position of vertigo all too easily.) This is another move toward unfolding the modern double. Châtelet himself speaks of unilateral (i.e. non-Newtonian [79]) motion.

  79. It is perhaps worth noting explicitly (and this is my own addition to Châtelet's thought) that Newtonian physics, via its third law, enacts the modern double.

  80. My geometric imagery of folding in the opening to Hierarchy as rupture might be helpful here. To recall, points of continuity are put at a distance via folding, leaving the immanent observer confronted with gaps.

  81. An emotion is an example of such a state: Whereas it is subjective, once it irrupts, and is recognized as such, it is treated as an object: We manage our anger, for instance.

  82. The collective quality of states provides a means of displacing the subject, but also of disembedding the subject per [73]. Such a tension can, perhaps, be used productively, but the basic impetus of states over nature is to disembed the subject as a priori (thus consummating early modern political theory-theology).

  83. That it is the liberal subject observing is apparent from notes like [46]: The other is figured according to nature.

  84. Recall that "nature" is, in part, the constructed domain of scientific investigation.

  85. Environmentalism would probably benefit from borrowing early modern theatrical tropes (per [50]), with an active role for nature. Whereas the passivity of nature figures the responsibility of humanity for environmental destruction, such passivity leaves a rhetorical void. How does nature respond to such destruction?

  86. The generative capacity of description seems to be simultaneously praised & ignored in discussions of modern science. (Apt descriptions are praised as discoveries, but not viewed as human creations that engender more human creations.) As the cliché goes, we find what we seek, and what we "find" affects what we seek in turn: The cycle is quite incestuous.

  87. The present gesture, at least as initially traced, insists on (scientific [84]) duality with nature. (Many of the states are, in turn, binary — as suggested already in [21].)

  88. As we have seen by now, the familiar & the unfamiliar can figure many kinds of relation.

  89. Does comedy jostle bodies in a familiar manner? Is it a manner of existing? Is relaxing at home a condition of existence?

  90. In other words, our minds will always seek conclusions. (Dare I call this human nature?)

  91. A successful state imposes itself (on thought). It can then draw thought within itself, progressively, via the familiar: It becomes more & more accepted as reality. (It is thus via the familiar that states become actors.)

  92. One thing we might do is to embrace nature as part of the symbolic, i.e. a part of culture. Then we can interrogate cultural conceptions of nature. (Such a move is not without the danger of further appropriation.)

  93. Continuing the analogy from [12] once again, thermodynamic state functions are in relation among themselves. Such specific relations are not necessarily traceable to kinetic theory, i.e. they emerge only with larger scales. However, separate derivation of states via kinetic theory can at least be laid side by side for comparison.

  94. The contemporary world finds unclear borders for nation-states to be absolutely intolerable. War is certain to follow, if such borders cannot be physically clarified (i.e. by walls, etc.) Moreover, the creation of one nation-state in this mode forces the creation of others. (Whether the European Union can overcome this modern tendency remains to be seen.)

  95. In this sense, we might consider law, (per [30]) a state itself, to be about mediating the general & particular, canonical in both its mediation & repetition.

  96. Per e.g. Jameson & Spivak, capitalism has become the most totalizing of abstractions. Although it claims to maintain its own universal (state) laws [97] across boundaries, world capitalism uses state boundaries differentially, as profit generation centers.[98] (Such boundaries can be used to construct monopolies, for instance, separating different factors of production & distribution.) Capitalism deterritorializes & reterritorializes in this literal manner, just as states themselves figure extremes of both individualization & deindividualization.

  97. The universal laws of capitalism are given their most precise & succinct form by neoliberal market rhetoric. (The reader probably does not need to be reminded that neoliberal rhetoric posits that exchange — market, monopoly, etc. — is inherently natural, as long as it is unregulated.)

  98. We see, as already discussed, the generative capacity of state mediation.

  99. International law & capitalism are forced by some states onto others. In other words, such concepts & methods of operation originated with particular states at particular times, just as (uncoincidentally) the state form itself was being imposed on the world (over the course of a few centuries). Thus, one should not see "independence" as a return to something prior. Rather, it marks the full proliferation of the (discrete) state form.

  100. Differential application is the most basic way of playing power games with discrete blocks (states). First divide, then decide which division (state) applies where & when. If the division is already accomplished, the differential quality might not be traced through to the division itself: One might feel a need to choose among the already limited options & apply. (The latter is a basic point of insistence by mainstream USA media.)

  101. The statement reinvokes object relations: One can use states, or be used by states. (Of course, most people are in the latter position.)

  102. It is a bit of a play on words to evoke nature here, but state forms were specifically constructed to facilitate particular kinds of permeability, to capital but not labor, for instance. Such relations are thus "natural" to the state.

  103. We might view states as difference engines, to borrow a term. This observation is especially clear when we consider what happens, differentially, at their borders. Moreover, separation into states has the potential to multiply differences combinatorially: States over states over states in a great orgy of hierarchy. That they can be figured at different conceptual levels only adds, yet again, to the impulse to separate & differentiate (and ultimately control).

  104. With this question, I pursue the notion that the mutual imbrication of states occurs at a level "beneath" states themselves, even as it cannot rely on a single state (i.e. nature).

  105. The reader can consider "the state of..." for each of these terms. (It should be obvious that they are states.)

  106. I see little point to thinking difference as unnatural. Rather, setting aside that duality seems worthwhile in an interrogation of states.

  107. Thinking difference absent states is absent equilibrium [108], but also absent duality, and possibly absent concepts. Philosophical concepts continue to re-emerge, making us all philosophers (per [90]), and not necessarily for the better, if we impede our own flexibility & motion. We then need lines of flight from philosophy itself, as concepts (states) become a form of capture.

  108. A note on states & ergodic theory: We can view states as stable, equilibrium (ergodic) positions that emerge from stochastic (random) motion. According to this theory, these positions form long-term domains of stability that are independent of initial conditions: In other words, a chaotic (or otherwise difficult to circumscribe) system will yield some discrete, stable states that can be measured & used (i.e. thermodynamic pressure, as a canonical example): We can stir up the components (gas molecules, say) however we want, but in accordance with ergodic theory, they will nonetheless tend to specific, stable states.[109] Now let us rethink "initial conditions." What are the conditions by which the ergodic framework is established in the first place? For instance, in what is our hypothetical gas contained? Note that ergodic thinking, state thinking, is contained thinking. (The equilibrium state of a finite set of uncontained gas molecules is zero interaction, i.e. no pressure, etc.[110]) Moreover, how is energy applied to this container? By whom & why?

  109. We can see that ergodic theory, although it was not invented yet, underpins e.g. classical economics. The tendency of an arbitrary disequilibrium situation to reach a specific type of equilibrium, independent of where it starts (i.e. boundary values), is precisely what is being argued. Such an argument can be critiqued both according to its ideas on what constitutes boundary values (its desire being to dismiss these as irrelevant) per se, and according to its reliance on equilibrium. (Note, however, that in the domain of political economy, equilibrium is often identified with peace.)

  110. Note that I have had something of a container in mind for this discussion, the Earth itself. (The reader might want to consider the ways in which the Earth functions as a container, and the ways in which it does not.)

  111. Even with this statement, I retain temporality: The states are already existing — not always already existing, but already existing. (Such an observation is, again, a reinterrogation of the early modern.)

  112. Hierarchy is articulated here according to its historical role forging the gesture. (Consider "initial conditions" per [108]. This concept implies a temporal embedding, i.e. assimilation to history.[113])

  113. Assimilation to history — and hopefully the tracing thereof — is the Hegelian gesture. Its motion is different from that of the present gesture, which is more akin to "end of history" (equilibrium) views. (Please note how easily I can make such a comparison at this point in our exposition.) Needless to say, I reject the equilibrium view as, at best, incomplete.

Chapter IV — The Familiar in Contemporary Music & Politics

In the first section of this article [1], I remarked on ordering the Chapters, and the reader might recall that, despite some other equivocation, Chapter IV was always going to be last. So in that sense, I'm reaching some kind of consummation here, and indeed I'm going to put aside any previous comments about reading out of order or skipping sections, and say that Chapter IV is intended to be read in order.[2] Its "finality" is because of its turn, presumably, to more practical matters. Of what might these "practical matters" consist? For one thing, as the title indicates, I intend to adopt a more resolutely contemporary perspective [3], with both music [4] & politics to the forefront. Chapter I has already articulated at least part of the motivation, whereas Chapters II & III provide some theoretical possibilities toward articulating some more (other [5]) ideas here. One might go on to characterize the present Chapter as practical applications of the previously articulated theory. However, I want to resist such an orientation, for a couple of basic reasons: First, Chapter IV will continue to be theoretical.[6] The reader might simply want to view the upcoming material as adopting a different perspective from the preceding. My task is to illuminate some ideas differently, or perhaps for the first time. The structures of both Chapters II [7] & III [8] were rather specific, but here form will evolve across the following four sections.[9] Second, positing a framework of theory with (practical) applications raises (at least implicitly) the issue of examples.

I've already noted my relative lack of examples.[10,11] Let me now, briefly, discuss exemplarity per se: An example can serve to focus a discussion, whether that's by providing a practical arena that theory lacks, or by providing a set of specific details that can be probed according to the framework in question. I do want to use something of this "practical arena," but not to commit to example-based details. Why not? First, I hope the reader notes the taxonomy or typology looming over these statements: If we start talking about "details" or frameworks, we suggest a hierarchy of general & specific.[12] Consequently, I do not want to suggest types or categories for what follows. Rather, there is the question of affective linkage & interaction, something that will indeed be traced & queried differently from in previous Chapters, but not according to type. Second, as the remark on "affective linkage" might already suggest, once something [13] is articulated as an example, i.e. brought to consciousness as a model, its relations shift (including its relations to itself). This is a problem for tracing. In short, examples exceed any typology [14]: Their "details" are both more & less real than theory [15], such that a detail can take on both more & less weight. The force of an example is such that not only might it undo itself in bearing that weight, but it might consume the theory for which it was intended as example.[16] One can certainly reply that I am being lazy, that these issues can be addressed, with sufficient care. My response: Yes, this is possible as well, but my orientation is not on examples. Rather, it is circular, from theory to theory, perhaps relating to some examples along the way.[17,18]

Whereas I am reluctant to let any example bear the weight of what is being discussed, out of concern for both the example [19] & the theory, my own specific situation does seem relevant. I am the example, and I have no further choice but to bear it: I situate myself via the writing, whether I want to do so or not.[20] One place this writing has largely failed to situate is on the world stage, as my (citations, and thus) concerns have been derived overwhelmingly from Western European thought (and its extension into USA & elsewhere). This is a weakness [21], but I will not make excuses for it: My discussions are indeed contextualized around my own life [22], like it or not. I hope they open outward.[23] These discussions certainly take on a familiarity, both in the way I approach the writing itself [24], and I imagine, in the way they are received. Where this sort of familiarity acquires further practical orientation & ramification is in my own choices (in practical situations), here contextualized in particular as aesthetic choices around music.[25,26] What do I find worthwhile and why? In that specific sense, at least, these discussions certainly exceed themselves.[27] However, what follows will not be examples, and the upcoming sections will not exhaust the topic in any real sense.[28] They might well reopen it.

  1. That was in October, as I recall, so I've been writing this for a while. (It's April now.)

  2. As throughout, the material is presented in the order I actually wrote it, at least when it comes to sections as a whole. (Such a statement becomes less clear when considering notes. There are thus at least a couple of time streams in play within sections themselves.)

  3. I would not characterize the previous Chapters as un-contemporary, but there were also various historical threads, etc. (I have no intention of collapsing time to the present instant here either, as the upcoming first section should make clear.)

  4. After all, music is the presumptive orientation for this entire endeavor — at least until such an orientation is itself contextualized.

  5. Is there a difference between "more" ideas & "other" ideas? I would suggest yes, but as the same person who described the previous ideas, whether I can be properly other here is an open question, and likely should be answered in the negative. But we shall see.

  6. What, exactly, constitutes something as a work of theory, as opposed to something else? I will leave this question open.

  7. Chapter II was, arguably, structured specifically by elision per se.

  8. Although Chapter III touches on a wide variety of material, sometimes in different ways, the "angles" (so to speak) of the gestures themselves were consistently articulated around a standard template.

  9. In other words, I will not indicate in advance how these topics are to be traced, interrogated, or articulated. Hopefully I can surprise myself, at least somewhat.

  10. I think it's fair to say that I do have quite a few examples here, actually, but probably not as many as some readers would like, or not worked through in as much detail as some readers would like.

  11. Laruelle makes similar remarks — similar to what I'm about to make — regarding examples & exemplarity. (It was nice to see someone else express a similar perspective.)

  12. Genus & species are exactly the classic Western formal taxonomy.

  13. This "something" might be called a trace, per my previous remarks, but I'd prefer to leave it as indefinite as possible here.

  14. Per Ngai, it should also be noted that examples have a tendency to feminize, i.e. to conform to an external typology themselves.

  15. Details are less real in the sense that they can be unsettled, ambiguous prior to being brought to consciousness. (The Schrödinger's Cat analogy is probably overdone, but does seem to fit here.)

  16. An example that "doesn't quite fit" can become all about its incongruous elements. Theory can be identified with its outside in this way (which can be helpful, at times). Note, though, that it is the act of positing something as an example that creates the potential relation of incongruity (and much of that via the classic hierarchy of [12]). Otherwise, one can speak more broadly of similarities & differences (or familiarities & unfamiliarities, pace the present context).

  17. One might analogize this circularity to e.g. Marx's discussion of commodities & money and c-m-c vs. m-c-m exchange cycles. In terms of the analogy, beginning & ending with theory, rather than with examples, can be seen as more exploitative (or capitalist). I make no claim that this is the best or only way to proceed.

  18. If the only result is that I nullify some other theory, such that individual practice can flourish in its absence, I will be quite satisfied.

  19. I want to emphasize that becoming an example can be quite traumatic. (They're sometimes called martyrs.)

  20. The statement assumes that I have chosen already to write, which of course I have. Writing has been one form of "care of the self," documented as such for at least many centuries.

  21. Revisiting some material from the 1980s, I continue to be shocked at how non-Western theory seems more marginal now than it did even then. Perhaps I am not looking in the correct place.

  22. After all, one Opening was about family.

  23. In other words, I do not want to construct a territory. (My own self care, per [20], involves such opening, and with it, the potential that the self might disappear as it was, i.e. that affective interfaces will realign. Perhaps this is a kind of dance.)

  24. I have a very familiar — at least to me — mode of working on such projects. This includes physical environments, activities between actual writing, pacing, etc.

  25. I want to raise the issue of "choice sets" explicitly: If I am presented with a specific set of similar (in some sense, whatever that might be) musical experiences, which will I choose? Although I am susceptible to such contexts, note that I do not want to choose according to specific, predetermined sets. A "choice set" becomes a form of manipulation.

  26. I make many other choices as well.

  27. The obvious excess is the choices I continue to make outside of this document.

  28. What follows will presumably exhaust me, at least for now, but not the topic. There is far more familiar than can be discussed, and as already noted, discussing it changes it anyway. So that said, let's change a few things: The topic is now politics.

Critical temporalities

Criticism marks a particular kind of affective linkage: We could say that criticism, and critical theory more broadly, effects a mood or tone. Critique is often framed as negative [1], but its positive intent is to forge a better world.[3,4] In other words, we hope for improvement via the feedback of criticism.[5,6] Moreover, the tone of criticism can vary depending on whether such improvement is actually expected — negativity multiplies when no improvement is on the horizon (or when things are becoming worse [7]).[8,9] In thrall to post- (or neo-)imperial neoliberalism, the current horizon does appear dim [10], so a positive orientation is critical [11] — to survival, if not to change. (So whereas for some people, criticism is superfluous, for others, it is a necessity of life.[12]) Not only must critique inflect criticism of its own supposed negativity [14], but it is susceptible to particularly rigid subject-object relations: There is the active critical agent, and the passive object of criticism. Criticism of criticism, particularly when it arises from the object side, already undermines this duality, however. Indeed, critique itself can be a kind of subject-object reversal in the social domain [15] — such that within a hierarchical frame, we might ask whether criticism is directed upward or downward.[16,17,18] Such a question raises yet another judgment, and critique can, in turn, invite typology [19]: Already, I am creating a sort of template here that I want to disclaim.[20] Let us consider judgment per se: Critique is predicated on judgment [22], and if one (always, at least implicitly) judges as part of a community, subject-object duality can be refigured as other-directed.[23] (Likewise, judgments & directions, viz. up/down, can be refigured non-hierarchically as simply "other."[24]) So what is our community, and what are we judging? In the present context, "community" is reflected at least somewhat in readership, even if (one hopes that [25]) relevance greatly exceeds readership. Such a readership might come with, or reflect [26], a body of authoritative knowledge, to be used as a basis for judgment.[27,28] Such an external basis can, in turn, redirect critique [29], refiguring judgment typologically. My concern here is that criticism arise directly from experience, rather than as mediated by an external typology.[30] In other words, in a community of experience, judgment (and in turn critique) arises from that experience [31,32]: It becomes both subject & object.[33] Whether critique focuses on experience or concepts (for instance) is subsumed in its being other-directed [34]: How is the other to be addressed? Here we might want to go ahead & figure community & other in turn as familiar & unfamiliar: The other raises the unfamiliar. Utopian critique (or what I might call avant critique [35]) highlights the unfamiliar [36], the unfamiliar as the possible. One might even say that the avant garde privileges defamiliarization [37], whereas the notion of community-based judgment privileges the familiar: However, both start from what one knows (i.e. the familiar), the former with an (additional? [38]) impetus toward change. The familiar is then the domain of criticism, (reductively [39]) invoking motion toward or away from the other.[40] Now I will turn to such motion [41], in the form of time.

The familiar is figured temporally: It has a before, and perhaps [42], an after. Avant critique focuses temporality forward: Not only toward what can happen in the future, but toward what should happen in the future.[43] Thus we consider the nature [44] of temporality itself [45]: Does the past or present determine the future? It's a silly question [47], in some sense, yet there are many ways in which people act as though the future is closed. Indeed, such closure is invoked by theory [48]: This is just the way things are [49], history has ended [50], etc. We are constantly told that various features of our contemporary world cannot be changed.[51] Perhaps ironically, the past itself argues for the possibility of change, as history has recorded so many changes. So critique engages the past [52] to open the future. However, not only does critique not necessarily [53] want to recreate the past, but such a recreation is fundamentally impossible: Things always change.[54] The irruption here [55] is thus of time & temporality themselves: In some sense, the temporal content is neutral, provided it opens forward. Perhaps the latter statement is an overreaction to the contemporary narrative of closure, and so we might ask more of a critical temporality of future possibility: For one, what of a distinction between chronological time & a time of becoming?[57] We are accustomed to the ticking away of striated (measured) moments [59], but what of the interstices? For all its claims to mastery over time, the contemporary era has problems with these interstices, reflected in boredom [60], concern for novelty, etc.[61] While those carefully measured moments tick away, something else occurs (if only figured as dissatisfaction [63]). Moreover, what of memory? If enunciative events transform temporalities [64], then memory is such an event [65]: It enacts a kind of atemporality.[66,67] However, whereas such an atemporal state can serve to deny the future, it can also spawn a variety of futures, a variety of temporalities per se.[68] Such a variety suggests a place for critique — i.e. choice [69] — and in turn, an affective relation toward time.[70] (This relation is reflected by "motion toward or away from the other," as in the previous paragraph.) Where are the familiar & unfamiliar in such an affective relation? Wherever (or rather, whenever) the familiar does not draw us further inside itself, but rather toward the unfamiliar, toward generation of unfamiliarity, and away from endless mediation. In other words, the contemporary era has trained us to form conclusions [72], but to move onward from it, we need to form beginnings.[73]

Figuration of temporality, contemporary & otherwise, has occurred canonically in narrative. Narrative marks not only a separation — of what is to be included & what is not — but an order. Its representational space is, by its nature, discrete: Narrative relates events.[74] Narratives are multiple, coinciding in some events, but not others.[75] Histories are narratives, and narratives trace conscious experience.[76,77] Narrative is a familiar kind of temporal representation: In its order [79], it represents the past & perhaps the present.[81,82] Narrative is a performance of knowledge [83], and the order of performance inflects that knowledge.[84] Narrative is not only an art form itself [85], but figures art more generally: The latter interacts with narrative at a variety of levels, whether social narrative broadly, or narratives relating only to particular artists or venues, etc.[86,87] In short, narration is affective, and usually multiple, hence multiply affective: Art affects us (and is in turn affected) via such narrative inflection.[89] The model of artistic experience inducing transcendence is not so widely accepted today, particularly with the ubiquity of commercial (commodity) art. However, such a desacralization yields the possibility of further narrative inflection.[90,91] (We call some of this narration "theory," of course.)

Not all narration is theoretical, but as the theory of art, one function of aesthetics is to trace narrative inflection, an act that might be affective itself.[92] Such a function is in contrast to "classic" aesthetics [93], which was more about the designation of categories [95,96,97], i.e. stopping points: When it wasn't transcendental, aesthetics was a kind of mediation.[98] So not only might we want to trace narrative inflection [99] today, but also affective circulation through the artwork, i.e. not only between the individual experiencer & the artwork-as-monad.[100] A view of the artwork as part of a locus of activity that exceeds it in both narration & affect not only eschews grand narrative [101] — the artwork as figuring far more than itself [102] — but allows us to experience how affect actually functions. Art & aesthetics [103] thus become a means to interrogate society [104]: Avant critique functions particularly powerfully via art.[105] Tracing affect in turn yields a trace of how power functions at the smallest scales of experience. Advertising is the most obvious example, but we are immersed in propaganda: This immersion is figured as aestheticization [106], and aesthetics itself consequently facilitates both its construction & interrogation.[107] Judgment is typically figured as rational, with its dominant emotional [109] component submerged, whereas in art & aesthetics, we observe no such priority for reason.[110,111] (Judgment, in this sense, goes beyond "mere" choice to knowledge claims themselves.) Moreover, art is a domain in which the critical mood is expected: One will not be criticized for criticizing art per se, but only (potentially) for the content of one's judgment. Whereas such a critical mood is obviously conducive to critique, that mood can be manipulated via the proliferation of opinions in isolation: Every response is posited as an individual response with no connection.[112] (Hence the need to trace.[115]) Such an attack [116] via proliferation & aestheticization calls in turn for experiential art inflecting an experiential aesthetics [117], perhaps so as to enact its own trace [118]: Aesthetic response is inscribed within activity generally, particularly in play (and in turn, sex) [119], calling not only for non-representational art [120], but for a renewed emphasis on direct (ongoing) experience itself.[121] So... what is familiar?

  1. Criticism questions the status quo, and for some people, the status quo must always be defended.[2] (Their happiness depends upon it.)

  2. The suggestion by Leibniz (in order to explain the so-called "problem of evil") that ours is the best possible world comes to mind here. Although most people who reflexively defend the status quo probably do not know who Leibniz is, this "best possible world" notion seems to be deeply affective. From that perspective, in turn, it would appear impossible for critique to be positive or productive: After all, the world is already the best it can possibly be.

  3. One way I have seen e.g. Adorno introduced in undergraduate anthologies — presumably to avoid scarring the fragile undergraduates — is as a utopian philosopher. In other words, Adorno is so negative in tone because he believes things can & should be so much better. (It's unclear that he really believed this, but his overwhelmingly critical tone is undeniable.)

  4. Even the notion of "a better world" embeds negative content: It frames the present actuality as worse, as something to be improved. In that sense, the negativity of critique is constitutive.

  5. Many, if not all, biological & social processes involve feedback. The possible difference here is the act of judgment, i.e. the notion of improvement, and attempting to nudge the process in that direction.

  6. For example, for much of the period that I served in volunteer capacities for the local school district, our organizational mantra was "continuous improvement."

  7. Whether things are better or worse is, of course, a matter of opinion. From my perspective, e.g. increasing wealth disparity & environmental damage are clearly worse. Other people disagree, especially regarding the former (and regarding the importance of the latter, which is in turn mitigated by wealth).

  8. In other words, criticism takes on different tones in the presence or absence of optimism. (One might say that the result is a composite mood.)

  9. The image of the horizon is not only visual, but also enacts a temporal dimension, since it takes time to move toward a horizon. (Such a temporal dimension is not necessarily implied by other senses. E.g. taste becomes an image of immediacy.)

  10. It seems that the contemporary regime tightens its control almost every day: Profit over everything else!

  11. I could not resist this double meaning.

  12. The belief that things could be otherwise is a powerful motivator.[13] (Religions such as Christianity had traditionally relegated such optimism to the afterlife. Note, though, that the mood of optimism does still function as motivation in such a configuration.)

  13. The neoliberal regime also uses a form of belief in things being otherwise: You too could be rich someday! So you wouldn't want any pesky regulations to inhibit your future rich self.

  14. Whereas it requires a doubling of critique to criticize the negativity of critique, it also can be simply ignored, and it is often enough. In other words, engaging in this critical doubling is just that, a kind of engagement.

  15. If we think of art criticism, the artwork remains canonically passive. (The artist might be long dead, etc.) Such criticism does presumably interact with a social domain, however, and so others (e.g. "fans," etc.) might be critical of one's criticism of an artwork.

  16. Although I am mostly concerned here with criticism directed upward, so to speak, criticism is directed downward relentlessly by the neoliberal regime: The poor are poor because of their own personal moral failings, etc. (I have mimicked neoliberalism's own unitary measure of value, namely monetary wealth, as determinant of social hierarchy.)

  17. Some comedy can be considered a form of criticism, likewise directed upward or downward.

  18. Whereas people often have an immediate grasp of what is "upward or downward" in social settings (and neoliberalism only makes this easier with its insistence on a single form of value), there is much more confusion on this point in the milieu of art itself. People's sometimes strange reactions to e.g. abstract art can be taken as reflective of this tension: They might be unsure of the social hierarchy being engaged.

  19. I have framed typology as an obstruction to the appreciation of difference, and so I want to invest in a critical theory absent typology (although not absent the criticism of typology).

  20. Any sort of exposition can invoke a template, simply by virtue of the need to order statements (i.e. to make a cut, as I've discussed already). The order I've chosen is (overly) conducive to an evocation of typology [21] (as is the hierarchical mimicry, explicit in [16]), however, hence the disclaimer & note.

  21. To clarify, the exposition basically suggests a (specific) series of binary positions or categories. Such a binary series can easily reify into a presumptive map. Such a map can, in turn, place critique at a remove from its domain. In other words, we cannot accept a preexisting map of the nature of criticism, if it is to produce an opening to possibility.

  22. I do not want to introduce temporal factors where none might exist. In other words, judgment & critique might be simultaneous. Conception of how things might be other than they are might well come before a conception of why they are as they are now.

  23. Judging via community & other-directed aesthetics are ideas from Arendt, inspired by Kant, via Ngai. (One might also frame Kant's sublime itself as other-directed, i.e. as taking one outside of oneself.) I will not inquire too far into what such a "community" is here.

  24. Of course, we are culturally conditioned to treat the other as of lower status. (This attitude is a necessary basis for imperialism, after all.)

  25. Perhaps I should hope, instead, that these concerns are irrelevant and that the world will be just fine. (This is, again, a matter of perspective.)

  26. An authoritative body might be constituted by, or constitutive of, readership. The two poles might arise together via relation.

  27. For example, philosophy (or science) has been conceived, at least at many times & places, as an authoritative discipline, something that can yield the truth.

  28. Reducing such a (presumably multi-dimensional) body to a unitary measure of value is how I've defined (following Grossberg) fundamentalism. (The present discussion does not necessarily involve such a reduction.)

  29. The reader will notice the immanent-transcendent duality yet again....

  30. Such mediation might be unavoidable during the act of expression or exposition, at least if one wants to engage with a readership, etc.

  31. In other words, immanent judgment is not predicated on categories, but rather categories arise immanently from perception (judgment).

  32. Judgment arising from experience undermines any question on the "need" for judgment. (We are frequently told to stop judging, that we'd be happier without criticizing.) It simply happens as a consequence of sensation & perception.

  33. The subject & object of experience is experience. (Such a summary sets aside individual subject formation in favor of social experience.) In other words, the duality vanishes on the horizon of experience.

  34. The other-direction of critique serves not only as an opening toward the horizon, but as a reminder that critique (per Wiegman) can promise too much. In a sense, it is always beyond us.

  35. The term "avant critique," which might be a bit pompous, is a variation on the relatively well-known term avant garde.

  36. I might even characterize Is postmodernism racist? as an article concerning the unfamiliar.

  37. Such a privilege quickly becomes political. (We might characterize any privilege as political.)

  38. I do not want to imply that the familiar is inherently static.

  39. What is critique prior to being perceived as criticism? (Whatever the answer, it need not suggest decisive motion.)

  40. To further invoke a regular example here, in time (i.e. with motion), recordings of new music start to sound familiar.

  41. The gestures of Chapter III already involved some similar motions.

  42. Although the familiar requires a past in order to be perceived as familiar, if only a spectral past as in déjà vu, it does not require a future: One's interaction with the familiar (although presumably not in sum, at least discounting one's death) might simply end.

  43. I invoke the relation between critique & judgment: Whereas immanent critique might not irrupt in judgment (per [39]), here it is figured at least as desiring. It produces motion, and not just any motion. (Note the space between "decisive" motion & "any" motion.)

  44. I am using the term "nature" here with all the ambivalence derived from discussing states over nature previously.

  45. I am continuing to enact the gesture interrogations of Chapter III explicitly, in this case regarding the title words [46], but that format will dissolve as we move into the next section.

  46. Asking about one's own title words is a rather basic & obvious interrogation anyway.

  47. For one thing, if the future is already decided, then it doesn't really matter what we do, so we might as well act as if it's undecided! (Call this a variant on Pascal's wager, perhaps.) Moreover, in the various small & everyday (i.e. more immanent) aspects of their lives, people generally do not act at all as if the future has already been decided: Who simply doesn't bother to e.g. watch where they're walking or wear proper clothes? (Yes, some people, sometimes.) It's only in "grand" schemes that people can be convinced that what they do doesn't matter.

  48. It is theory, specifically, that announces such closure: It is not everyday experience that seems closed to possibility. Many different, perhaps unexpected things happen every day. (We can't even reliably predict the weather.)

  49. The sentiment that "this is just the way things are" has the great merit of being literally true. (If it's true, that is, because sometimes it isn't.) However, such a matter-of-fact observation is not what is intended, of course. Rather, the statement means that things cannot be changed, and perhaps that they were always this way. (The latter can easily be challenged on a historical basis.) In other words, the statement "this is just the way things are" is an attack on temporality & the future itself (if not the past as well).

  50. The "end of history" is figured as a permanent triumph for neoliberalism.

  51. One can argue that accepting things as they are is a practical (adaptive) response much of the time. Here we consider circumstances where acceptance is impossible or unbearable. (After all, "things as they are" include various instances of necropolitics, etc.)

  52. We can consider the possibility of criticism that does not engage the past at all, but I don't know how to do it. (Perhaps this is a personal failing.) Critique has its own history, but more than that, one's observations of circumstances are based in time (if only a relatively brief time).

  53. I do not have much personal patience for "golden age" theories and the like, despite being engaged regularly with history. However, it is true that in many times & places, a hypothetical return to the past, perhaps the not very distant past, would yield (some) improved conditions.

  54. Notions of the end of history seem no less absurd now than they would have to Heraclitus. (Neoliberalism would seem comically stupid, if not for its violence-based control of the world.)

  55. Per [45], I will also ask about a sense of self: Critical temporality need not include the self, and indeed for longterm concerns such as the environment, the self is not included in the critical horizon.[56]

  56. One might say that having a sense of the world after oneself, a sense of one's own death, requires a belief in the continuation of history. (Laplanche even asks if loss itself, in this case loss of self, is coextensive with temporalization. Like the familiar, the sensation of loss requires some kind of before.)

  57. Such a distinction within the nature of time dates at least to ancient Greece, with Chronos & Aion, and is re-raised by a variety of contemporary authors, including Virno. (Virno also figures déjà vu as the sensation that both signifies the closing of history as well as marks its reopening.[58])

  58. Virno positions déjà vu, moreover, as a sensation that reflects the fact of contemporary cynicism (and with it, the impossibility of change). It enacts a kind of temporal sameness that can mediate even death per [56]. I do not feel so negative about the sensation, and consider it to be a refiguring of the familiar & unfamiliar, an opening (which is also part of Virno's discussion).

  59. Our relation to mechanically measured time, and hence chronology per se, is associated (and rightly so) with the industrial revolution, but as per [57], such a distinction is not new. What the contemporary era has achieved in this arena, if anything, is simply more precision. (The goal of increasing precision is to squeeze out more intervening possibility? The ticking of one second to the next comes to enact the death drive.)

  60. Some say that boredom is itself the source of the avant garde (and by extension, avant critique). Boredom does bring a search for novelty (quite likely in the sense of [61], however), but I prefer to view the avant garde itself not through this lens, but rather through the lens of critique itself. In other words — and this can be substantiated in e.g. Boulez's music following World War II, and explicitly in his discussion of the Nazi use of Beethoven — avant garde art derives from critique, not the other way around. (Although a note in parallel to [22] applies to the latter remark.)

  61. For instance, Adorno observed that the goal of the culture industry, particularly in popular music, is to produce the constant appearance of newness (novelty), without anything really being new.[62] Such an observation, together with [58], suggests the imposition of cyclical time (of which fashion might be the clearest marker). Denial of possible change is thus enacted over & over, even in entertainment. (And, as we are saturated in this nonsense, it takes on the character of real experience.)

  62. In the terms of the present article, the culture industry is mediating the familiar & the unfamiliar in a very particular way, namely making the familiar seems just a bit unfamiliar — enough to induce people to buy (in) yet again, to generate more familiarity. Contemporary temporality becomes saturated by the familiar (which is, in turn, a message that things cannot be otherwise).

  63. Moments between (or outside of) chronological time can be quite joyful too. Such an observation is as much a motive for critique as is the negative agitation already described. Whereas the latter reflects problems with contemporary temporality, the former shows how little it contributes to positive events. (Such non-chronological moments are experiences of pure immanence, where e.g. Laruelle says the future really occurs.)

  64. The transformation of temporalities by enunciative events is an idea from Lazzarato, who goes on to note that such events are always more than language (expression) itself. (There is a quasi-Lacanian message about memory formatted as a language embedded here.)

  65. The "tricks" of memory, such as déjà vu or any number of contemporary experimental results, may be more real than any (imposed) temporal linearity. Memory does not automatically respect the contemporary hegemony of Chronos over Aion. (Such hegemony is, of course, presumptive anyway.)

  66. Memory reenacts the past in the present, hence (at least partially) canceling the intervening time.

  67. Hence, historical experience is said to be fragile. (Indeed, knowledge of history among the population of contemporary USA seems to be appalling. We even have a so-called History Channel on television that appears to show mostly fiction, and its "license" is not innocent.)

  68. If, as per the parenthetical remark of [63], the future occurs via immanence, then we might want to conceive of the future as multiple, marked by multiple immanences. (Despite my reluctance to give examples, I am thinking, at least in part, of group improvisation as a way to explore this issue in music.)

  69. A call for multiple temporalities, and in turn for choice, raises the same basic danger as any attempt to subvert hierarchy: It is only too easy to say, "Okay, you can have your choice of temporalities, but this is the only one that matters, so you just stay over there/then." (This is a direct expression of fundamentalism, per [28].) However, I would argue that this is what already occurs, and so I am not making so much a call for multiplicity as a call to acknowledge that multiplicity.

  70. Queer theory has explored different affective relations to time, particularly around the question of non-biological futures. (Some of today's popular genetic notions, i.e. the supposed evolutionary satisfaction [71] of propagating one's genes, can serve to blunt confrontation with death per [56]. Indeed, that is likely the source of their popularity: They fit nicely into the so-called end of history, despite the explicit temporal frame of evolution itself.) Queer futurity is thus a kind of critical futurity more broadly.

  71. I flatly reject this notion of evolutionary satisfaction. It is obviously culturally mediated.

  72. We fetishize both origins & endings. People are fascinated with origins (per se, as opposed to e.g. narrative traces) because they believe they know the ends, i.e. the now. (Time itself has become subject to an origin fetish, although always in the singular, like the others.) And they're increasingly fixated on death & other endings (and the death of god was well-suited to the end of history), because they're afraid of that very same now. (Yet, nonetheless, [1] continues to apply.)

  73. Such beginnings are (will be, have been, will have been, are to have been, are to be, etc.) not only new events, but new times & temporalities.

  74. I would argue that philosophical concern with the event has been derived specifically from narrative (perhaps passing through historicism).

  75. It might be tempting to consider as many narratives as there are people, but that is not my intent. Such an approach continues to reinscribe the subject, whereas narrative is only powerful when shared. (One can define insanity as the attempt to share a personal narrative that no one else, or at least very few people, want to share.) Shared by whom? That can be difficult to circumscribe, especially in advance, but I will opt for Arendt's term, community. A community is formed by narrative, and as Arendt wrote, judges together — in turn, according to narrative. Differences in community judgment can lead to multiple narratives; narratives might coincide (or partly coincide) with those of other communities, etc.

  76. Narratives may differ simply from differences in consciousness, even for the same event.

  77. We can consider what is not included in narrative: Much of experience is not conscious at all, so in that sense, narrative can capture only what is remarkable. (We can consider narrative to be a form of capture.) So whereas, per [76], we can consider differences in narrative to be differences in consciousness — and those differences might be actively cultivated — much of experience simply escapes narration, different or otherwise. (Perhaps this is where I should introduce a concept such as anti-narrative, or in parallel with Laruelle, non-narrative. An exploration of non-narrative could not include the expectation of actually capturing all of experience, however.[78])

  78. Computer surveillance & artificial intelligence raise the prospect of capturing all of experience. I am of the opinion that such a feat remains impossible. The computer simply has a different sort of sieve (per [81]). Let us not start to believe otherwise!

  79. It is tempting to write "chronological order," but the temporality of narrative need not be strictly chronological. For instance, myths frequently deal with different concepts of time. (Religious ritual generally deals with different temporal concepts too, i.e. cyclic time [80], etc.) They still possess an order, however.

  80. Note that cyclic narratives do have an order, even though they might not have a beginning or end: They proceed through a sequence, and then do so again.

  81. We can observe that narrative is a representation on account of its discrete character. It is like a sieve, retaining only a portion of experience (and only a portion of conscious experience, at that).

  82. It is unlikely (at any particular moment) that the present is fully represented by narrative, but it is at least highly contextualized by narrative: What happens next?

  83. I have already raised the prospect of knowledge per se as performance, and in that sense, narrative is a particular kind of performance. (Storytelling was a dominant form of literally public performance at one time, and some people do keep that aspect alive today.)

  84. I've already noted the way that e.g. hearing pieces of music (for the first time) in a different order from most people (or at least from the people creating them) yields a different perceptual result. Another example, of an experience around writing the present article, was reading Difference & Repetition only after reading later works by Deleuze, as well as various other authors who cite that monograph or were influenced by it. It was a bit strange. Likely the reader has had such an experience, where for want of a better term, our perceptual order becomes unnatural (as opposed to simply arbitrary). Such an alternative ordering inflects our judgment, to the point that the notion of narrative-independent (or temporally independent) preference becomes nonsense. We cannot undo the perceptual ordering, even if we forget things at the conscious level, although we can ameliorate (or manipulate) it. (I also see no reason to apologize for experiencing things out of order. It's something that is simply going to happen, at least sometimes, and one might not even know it.)

  85. Calling narrative an art form itself is in contrast to defining art forms according to medium. So whereas e.g. the novel was classically based on narration, a novel is not necessarily narrative today. Basing form on medium becomes more tenuous as media are conflated technically, so a different approach might be worthwhile. (And no such classification scheme should be taken too seriously anyway. Artists will always look to conflate them.)

  86. There are also the personal narratives of the audience members, as partially articulated in [84]. Community narratives may come from the artists, different artist groups, different audience groups, etc.

  87. We might call these layers of narration the "context" of the artwork. (The artwork might then [88] reinflect that context.)

  88. Note that such a temporal sequence does not always literally hold, as the remarks of [84] illustrate. The various narratives might be out of sequence, and such an "out of sequence" can be the basis for art.

  89. Even the concept of the artwork as passive object is a kind of narrative inflection: We might not see it as doing anything, but we do see ourselves as doing via it.

  90. In other words, the sublime (as Kant's canonical example) specifically brought a halt to narration. In desacralizing the sublime, it can continue.

  91. For example, we might note that, to the extent that postmodernism marks the so-called end of history, it suggests that the avant garde is itself impossible: There is no possibility of being (temporally) ahead. Yet, the postmodern era has cultivated avant garde art. (We can further figure this as resistance to the "cuteness" of mass commodity art, as Ngai almost does.) Time & history, halted by the dominant narrative, spurt through any fissure, at ever higher speed. Somehow, all this can still be narrated.

  92. In this context, Brinkema cautions that it becomes too easy to treat affect "in general," rather than tracing specific affects. (Such a caution can be framed according to the immanent-transcendent duality.)

  93. Brinkema further notes that the creation of aesthetics per se, in the 18th century, excluded affects such as disgust. Enlightenment era philosophy normalized Western imperialism, and this is reflected in aesthetics as well: One need only consider the image of the classic dinner party, where any topic that might challenge social hierarchy was considered impolite. Aesthetics was founded as a way to mark what was pleasing (or transcendent, which directed it toward different, although clearly hierarchical, domains of philosophy) about European domination, not to trace affect more generally.[94] (Per [92], such a remark concerns tracing various specific affects, not a single general trace.)

  94. The social origin of aesthetic philosophy — and you can see that I am engaging in narration here — thus helps to explain some authors' (e.g. Jameson's) reaction to "matters of mere taste" or aestheticization in general. There has been an attempt to place such matters beyond critique — and that attempt was quite successful with many people I meet, those who are eager to dismiss any possibility of finding value in so-called "arguing about matters of taste." (I personally find such an attitude to be bizarre, even if I have a good sense of what conditions it. What could be more informative than examining matters of taste? But then, these people typically react this way only after some attitude of theirs is highlighted....)

  95. Ngai continues this tradition by designating aesthetic categories, as does Brinkema, although by concentrating on so-called minor (in the Deleuzian sense) categories. There is something to be said for naming our affective responses, as categorical designation is a sort of critical judgment, and indeed such naming can be a significant part of tracing, but I want to disclaim any interpretation suggesting that such categories can be fully enumerated. (The concept of minority even precludes it.)

  96. One might argue that "familiar" is an aesthetic category. Although I can accept such a designation in some circumstances, I have resisted applying it generally. Familiarity exceeds aesthetics in this sense.

  97. The categorization of art has not been about only affective (or emotional) responses, but also about different genres, etc. (Such genres might concern technique or other factors, but sometimes they do concern affective response.) However, there is also broad resistance to such (institutional) categorization, reflected in calls for "art without labels," etc. Forcing art to conform to an a prior category does create a severe limitation, although art does sometimes function via constraint (or limitation). In other words, these categories can be mobilized as part of the artistic act. But I digress....

  98. In other words, we asked whether an artwork was "really" e.g. beautiful, and discussed differences in that perception.

  99. Derrida's deconstruction or Foucault's genealogy might be framed as just such a tracing.

  100. Adorno's insistence on the monad can be seen as an attempt to create a non-narrative aesthetics. (In further terms of the present article, such an approach can be "corrected" via tracing the familiar.)

  101. Note how I can (innocently?) invoke "grand narrative" after discussing narrative per se. It should be easy to see that the "grand" concept posits some events (and a particular consciousness thereof) as superior to others.

  102. For grand narrative, the artwork doesn't so much figure as it literally signifies, representing or reflecting the broader narrative. (I still find people who reflexively ask of abstract art, if they are willing to engage with it at all, "What does it mean?" And they certainly expect a single answer.)

  103. Art & aesthetics were historically separated via medium, but as [85] suggests, and as The form of aesthetics already suggested, such a separation may not be relevant today (if it ever was).

  104. The creation of concepts & the interrogation of concepts are not usually separate activities. (We can attempt to disentangle them by tracing the familiar.)

  105. Art also allows us to ponder non-narrative forms for critique. (This is not easy, though, as already suggested in [52].)

  106. I already discussed (in [94]) how aestheticization is figured by some authors, and its power-propaganda relations are another (similar) reason for this response. However, I would argue that it is aesthetics that, rather than (only) obscuring power, provides us with the tools to trace how power functions in the contemporary world.

  107. Understanding the means by which power propagates itself seems like an undertaking that requires no justification.[108] Yet, many people disclaim such an interrogation on principle. (This is a variant on "it's just this way" sentiments.) It can be frustrating, I'll admit.

  108. I have to laugh when people reflexively remark that e.g. majoring in art in college is a terrible idea for making a living. Who do they think makes all this propaganda? (Of course, you need to be good at it, in sharp distinction to [112].)

  109. Propaganda & advertising function powerfully below the level of emotional response per se (i.e. at the affective level that I've been emphasizing). Aesthetics can then serve to draw out latent emotion, to make such immersion explicit. In this sense, emotion is an outcome not of art, but of theory (and, indeed, narration). The latter is also why emotional response is culturally conditioned in ways that affect is not.

  110. People trained to prioritize reason might thus find art uncomfortable. (It becomes more comfortable via the model of aesthetics as mediation. Such an approach to aesthetics subjects the artwork to reason, categorizes it, etc.)

  111. Aesthetic judgment also presents a spectrum, i.e. does not have a yes or no answer. (However, note that what I've called classic or mediative aesthetics generates a place for yes-no answers by prioritizing categories such as beautiful or sublime: We can ask, "Is it beautiful?" etc. Such binary or hierarchical generation is undermined by a "minor" approach that does not prioritize categories a priori.)

  112. Consider the hyperbolic (we might say zany) judgments of reality television, for instance. Not only should everyone have an opinion, but the more outrageous (i.e. individual) the better. That opinions are not based on anything is performed for us over & over [113], but such is indeed a basis: These "opinions" are set in opposition to critique itself, via careful staging.[114]

  113. Thus we have the contemporary spectacle of a judgment confirming a lack of judgment. (The contemporary regime certainly has no difficulty incorporating such a minor contradiction.) The spectacle, in turn, enacts a disincentive to learn more.

  114. The staging of opinions on reality television requires less & less care as this mode of discipline is further institutionalized, however. (Such a mode has proven to be very effective at undermining critique.)

  115. Some authors call such tracing close reading. I want to suggest that close reading is not the only way to trace (as the trend for e.g. "distant reading" shows). The toolbox remains open & under construction.

  116. I believe that "attack" is an apt description. E.g. reality television is far from innocent.

  117. Inflection of experience per se might involve changes in one's (or a community's, more broadly) affective stance toward time: A role for critique, as already explored, is thus to modify (or move) affective relations with time.

  118. Art as a trace in this sense, i.e. as "motion toward or away from the other," is in contrast to the monadological object of experience. It is ongoing.

  119. Invoking play refigures the history of aestheticization. If play (let alone sex) is largely aesthetic, it obviously greatly predates not only "Enlightenment" normalization, but cultural separation itself.

  120. We have now arrived at a dilemma: If tracing is narration is representation, are we or are we not to trace non-representational art? In other words, when or where is it non-representational? Such a tracing becomes transverse.

  121. In other words, we might want to prompt people (somehow) to perceive their own experience, i.e. as not already mediated (by power) by category. What is really happening?

Investments & Relations

Like the title [1] of the whole article, this section title can be read to indicate that it contains definitions, or lists of things fitting categories.[2] Proceeding with the former, the term "relation" has already been used broadly here, and so I will not define it.[3] The term "investment," however, requires a bit of discussion before proceeding: It derives from the Latin vestment or vestiment, i.e. clothing.[4] Investment becomes the act of clothing (dating to 1597 in English), and by extension, the act of putting into office [5], and further, endowing with rights or privileges.[6,7] The idea of "investment" as employing a company's "money or capital" [8] dates to 1615, although "invest" has a similar meaning from 1598, and is apparently motivated by similar use of the term in Italian (from 1333). More directly to the point for the present section, the meaning of "invest" as "endow with attributes" dates to 1604 (via Shakespeare [9]). Although one can marvel at this historical sequence [10], here I adopt something of a hybrid meaning from psychology [11]: An investment is something (or someone [12]) one cares about, especially in the sense of an outcome. (It is thus the figure of affective linkage for the present section.) An investment might provide one with a monetary income, or some sense of personal satisfaction or validation. (This double meaning is welcome for my choice of the term, and I will focus on the second sense as more general.) So we might invest in something — broadly speaking, and perhaps without any conscious knowledge of that investment — thus establishing a (particular sort of) relation. Such investments might include family per se, patriotism, etc. They might be (entirely) emotional. For instance, one might feel invested in maintaining the status quo — again, broadly speaking — as the source of one's happiness.[14] Are investments familiar? They might not be conscious, so not necessarily consciously familiar [15], but they are still familiar at the affective level: Investment is a way the familiar leads us further inside itself.[16,17] (That investment can derive from or result in political positions should be obvious enough.[18])

Having discussed the "investment" concept and its definition, it is time to proceed to something of a list. I am not endorsing typology (or a particular categorization) here [19], and the list will certainly not be comprehensive.[20,21] The point is that investment, as a sort of (sometimes) mechanical relation, yields similar forms across a wide variety of things [22] (in which to be invested). In other words, e.g. sexual & political fantasies — outcomes in which one is invested — can (and often do) share similar symbols [23] & forms. The following is then a discussion of some important contemporary investments, and some of their relations.

Having already mentioned sexual fantasy, I want to begin with a consideration of libido & libidinal investment.[24] What is it that we invest? There's time & money, of course, and I already mentioned emotional investment: We come to care about an outcome for a variety of reasons. I also mentioned that we might not be consciously aware of our investments, and it is classic psychoanalysis that posited libido (sexual desire) as the source of unconscious investments.[25] I don't agree with the notion that there is a single or most important type of desire [26], but libidinal investment is an important idea for what follows: In this case, it designates not where someone is invested, but what they invest.[27] In other words, someone might require some superficially unrelated outcome (a job promotion, a sports team winning — wherever one is invested) in order to feel (heightened) sexual desire.[28] In terms of the previous section, one's libidinal energy might be invested in a particular narrative.[29] (Such narratives are cultivated by propaganda & marketing generally, and perhaps interrogated by art or theory.) Narrative wants to be shared, and that desire is one driver of normalization: Some people are (libidinally) invested in the notion that everyone has a similar sexual narrative. Correspondingly [30], many people find the unfamiliar to be sexually exciting, even if their other investments prevent them from acting on that excitement. The familiar & unfamiliar thus both drive the complexity of social-sexual (i.e. power inflected) relations via narrative. (We might say that narrative is where sexual relations become political.[31]) So whereas libidinal investment in similar narratives is one reason that people find queer sex problematic [32], libidinal investment can be figured generally as queer: One's sexual energy is directed (or derived from) outside of the immediacy of sexual relation with another person. From that perspective, heteronormative sex already isn't only heteronormative sex. Various investments [33] both drive & are confirmed by that sexual activity. (Unsurprisingly, those most closely following the heteronormative script are least likely to notice.[34]) So having discussed one significant thing that people invest, in what else — beyond sexual scripts [35,36] — are they investing?

Family was already mentioned too, and indeed family is a significant investment for many people.[37] Not only is investment in family considered totally normal, if not required, but it is a primary means of propagating power between generations in our culture.[38] Sexual investment is thus supposed to align politically with family investment (producing heteronormativity [39]). Family is also the locus of economic allocation, hence the (often required) investment of the monetary kind. Moreover, via relaxing at home, family determines the familiar per se. For instance, power relations within the family take on a molecular form between individuals, but are also inflected by the molar relations of family roles within society.[40] Seeing as most of us grew up in families, this is our reference for contextualizing individual-societal power relations.[41] (This context is highly economic today, given neoliberal marketing and its messages to conform, directed at families.[42]) Family is also the source of many early memories, and usually even the site of perceiving self, thus investing it with unparalleled semiotic power. The literal unfamiliar brings fear & uncertainty, bolstering the status quo generally. However, outcomes of family relations can also become too familiar to be perceived.[43] So whereas family investments are literally in people, or at least can be framed that way, they are often actually in notions of power propagation [44]: One lives through one's children? One can easily become invested in (the idea of) family per se [45], rather than one's actual, individual family members. This kind of perceptual doubling [46], especially when it occurs at the level of self formation, produces an investment in contradiction itself [47]: One's passions are forged early [48], and family is prior to any rational sense. Such investment prior to rationality becomes more obvious when one's investment in abstract family relations (somehow [49]) does not apply to other families: Their inability to conform seems all too real.[50]

Few things have been subjected to more perceptual doubling than the body: Mind-body dualism has not only animated Western culture, but yields its canonical duality. What is our investment in the body? Obviously it has been secondary to our investment in the mind. Although justification for social hierarchy often refers to the mind, it is the body that stands as direct perceptual evidence: We see race, class, gender, disability, etc. marking the body.[51,52] (The body is also the focus of sexual relations.[53]) Affect marks the body as well [54] — affect that does not necessarily yield to the supposed rationality of the mind.[55] (Affect might then become emotional response.[56]) Our bodies are articulated as things "we" must control, and moreover, the bodies of others are also framed as needing control or discipline. We are invested in the health of our bodies, perhaps [57], but also in keeping them in their place. Our bodies register our other investments [58]: They laugh [59], they cry [60], they become disgusted. (The latter response continues to attract theoretical attention because of its visceral resistance to manipulation via propaganda.[61]) In some sense, there is nothing more familiar than our bodies, but we can also think affect absent the body: Although affect sticks to bodies, it circulates between & beyond bodies (and indeed beyond expression per se). Such intersubjective affectivity [63] might trouble our sense of familiarity, if we see ourselves on unfamiliar bodies, and in turn, we might become invested in maintaining bodily difference.[64] Affective circulation thus triggers investment in bodily discipline, particularly of the other [65], thus externalizing the mind-body duality.

The other is what is external. Yet we must perceive ourselves according to the other [66], yielding an investment in relation to the other. Such relation becomes grammatical in e.g. the subject-object duality. Considering the grammar of the other more generally, our relation might be via representation: We invest in how the other is represented (which in turn inflects our representation of ourselves). This is a game of signs, but also very familiar: Various representations animate society, whether scientific representation [67] figuring knowledge itself, or via capitalist deterritorialization freeing signs to circulate independent of the real.[69,70] How is the other represented? Such representation has been via taxonomy [72], i.e. classification of the other according to a hierarchy of concepts or traits. Moreover, such representative taxonomy (or perhaps, typology) figures rationality itself: We are told how to know the other, and when the other does not conform (to this taxonomy or narrative), it becomes irrational or the bad example. (The bad example may then go on to refigure typology [73,74], feeding difference into definition.) The other must thus yield to our definition, to the grammar we apply to it. Yet it also resists, as our control of the other might not extend beyond representation & grammar: Such resistance is reflected in turn in narrative of the self [75]: Investment in a particular structure for (or from) the other is reflected back on investment in (a particular structure for) the self.

Investment in the self thus figures (or is figured by [76]) a grammar for the other. Such an imposed grammar [77] yields an investment in disciplining the other to conform. This discussion need not remain so abstract (or technical): Many people today are quite invested in disciplining the other [78], in order to confirm their sense of right & wrong (i.e. self [79], or even truth [80]). Such a disciplinary regime differs from a control society (or a command economy, as an aspect might sometimes be called): Since we cannot directly control the other (particularly not the other's desire), we contain it via discipline.[81] Much discipline is enacted via narrative: We are bombarded with repetitive [82] messages, including disciplinary messages: These might be in the form of scapegoating [83], conspiracy [84], even cuteness.[85] Narrative forms modulate collective tensions, figure them according to characters & plot lines. (As we've discussed, such a narrative mode of discipline is especially effective for sex.[86]) Our disciplinary narrative continues to rely on work cleaving life, however: The other must work to satisfy us, work for our profit, always work. (Anything else is figured as utopian, in an increasingly hectic, i.e. zany [87], work context.[88]) Disciplinary demands that the other be functional [89] become demands that the other be rational: If the other is making bad, irrational choices [90,91,92], then more discipline is required. (We remain invested in forcing the other to choose.[94]) Of course, discipline for the other can also be very conscious, even public: We call it justice, and people are quite invested in it.[95,96] (Moreover, the juridical logic of precedent is narrative.[97]) The other must be punished [98], and we want to know about it. The disciplinary regime is thus one of personal validation: Discipline for the other is not for the other, but rather for us.

Language itself is a kind of public discipline [99]: Not only does it figure sexuality [100], so often in need of punishment, but identity more generally. (The discrete character of language transforms identity into ideology.[101]) Language addresses the other, but also tells us who we are [102], constrains (disciplines) how we can express personal identity, and in turn political identity. (Identities must be familiar, not only the identity of the other, but our own, particularly when they concern political narrative.[103]) Language, moreover, is itself already shaped by ideology: It is not a neutral domain. (Knowing the words [105] also involves aesthetic investment.[106,107]) Nonetheless, political narrative, to engage with political narrative [108], implies a shared language. The dominant political narrative (around democracy) implies more sharing than merely language: It is centered on molar quantities, refigured at the individual level as concerning the average person.[109] (The average person is set in narrative opposition to the "special interest." And thus the special interest, at least at its most special extreme, figures the molecular, the individual.) Representative democracy also gives another meaning to representation: People are literally represented by other people, all figured in (usually ideological) language. Such language even brings the concept of political correctness [110], and with it, further investment in language as ideology. Of course, we don't have to look far afield to consider a non-representational politics (in both senses), since most of us are not actually represented. The representational deficit of language is reflected directly in a lack of political representation. Ideological investment can & does create new political language, but on a discrete & incremental basis: How might political language circulate freely [111] in a non-representational space? Such a space of difference has already been captured via the language of diversity [115], contained by the disciplinary regime. (The narrative grammar of the other thus becomes a mechanism of capture.) Investment in language brings this constant danger of reification & containment, of self-othering.

Performance of identity goes well beyond language, and in our culture, brings an investment in how we dress, i.e. in fashion.[116] Individual expression, i.e. the expression of personal identity, via choice among a finite quantity of mass-produced clothing items & accessories seems like something of a contradiction, yet many people are quite invested in this form of expression.[117] Although investment in fashion brings investment in commerce (often at its most predatory [119]), it is also possible to create clothing & accessories as art [121], i.e. not as mechanically reproduced.[122] However, such choices often reflect a similar investment in narrative: They consciously evoke types.[123] One situates oneself via fashion, but among (usually [125]) finite choices. Much like popular music (another major domain of the culture industry, as discussed in the previous section), fashion produces constant novelty, but not too much novelty: It remains familiar (and typed [126]). (Such a stream of differences is not only cultivated and consumed, but monetized.[127]) Fashion thus invests one in political narrative doubly, both for personal validation & as fuel for commerce [128]: It marks the body with (its) affective linkages.[129]

Investment in narrative as a form of personal validation is cultivated by marketing, even outside of the fashion industry. Although few people invest in marketing per se [130], marketing attempts to trigger & reinforce various investments. Increasingly, marketing messages attempt to conjure personal worlds, to speak to us individually, to tell us the world is only for us: Buy these products, and you will be personally validated.[132] (Such personal validation needs to be constant. After all, otherwise we might sometimes think that the world isn't for us, let alone only for us.[133]) Thus marketing embraces multiple narratives [134]: Not only are marketing narratives multiple, but they become increasingly targeted at smaller & smaller groups, with the ultimate goal (as already alluded) to speak to (to generate [135]) each of us individually. (The internet & technology have facilitated this revolution.[136]) Increasingly diverse narratives, in turn, produce a proliferation of identities.[138,139] Many of these identities are marked on the body, whether via fashion or otherwise. (Not only does the constant chatter of validation produce a politically quiet world [140] for the orderly accumulation of profit, but it frees a variety of signs to circulate.[141]) Such proliferation induces & preys upon flights of boredom: We require the interesting to consume. What kind of feeling is adequate?[143] What products must we purchase in order to have sex? (We are very invested in that question.) Such questions are addressed via market research, and then answered — often obliquely [144] — in advertising.

Although marketing messages validate us personally [145], triggering our prior investments, market research can make people uneasy: Such unease has revolved around the liberal investment in privacy.[146] Privacy, that is to say, the condition of the private home or place of business, has already been transformed via technology: Television & other media penetrate it directly [148], but it is communication in the other direction that generates unease.[149] (Someone unfamiliar might be watching you![150]) Our typical investment in privacy is thus an asymmetric investment. In other words, we want control of who we watch as well as of who watches us.[151] (The surveillance state not only offers an answer to the latter, but further raises alarms that some "foreign" entity might be watching. Both messages serve to obscure increased surveillance by a wide variety of commercial entities.[152] These sometimes vanish entirely from the "privacy" debate, or are reduced only to a particular set of scammers, etc. Commercial surveillance will save us, we are even told, from the scammers.[154]) Do people actually do anything interesting to watch?[155] By extension, why isn't being watched validating?[156] Look for the investment in privacy to change as traditional, default means of privacy vanish.[157,159]

As privacy becomes a product to be marketed, it is typically figured as visual: Privacy concerns are strongly marked by ocularcentrism. Some readers might continue to "view" the visual domain as "naturally" superior, but this is another place to question it: Seeing is rather impersonal, and one can look away. What if we had little or no control over who touched us? (That's a serious lack of privacy, right?[160]) And in the sonic or olfactory domains, there is no equivalent to looking away.[161] (Television teaches us not to look away.[162,163]) The "known world" is figured scientifically as a visual image, embedding ocularcentrism into epistemology [164], such that not looking becomes not knowing. We are even taught to figure disgust visually, despite that it arises more strongly from smell: Because of technology (such as television & now the internet), our discipline is distinctly visual: We are spectators.[165] So are we really invested in ocularcentrism? It would appear so, at least for now.[166]

If we are spectators, what do we watch? At least in contemporary USA, much of what we watch is violent [167]: Two prominent examples are video games & sports. Although the former figures violence more broadly as participatory entertainment, I want to focus more on the latter, with its longer history. (Sports is also participatory, but it appears that more young people favor video games for that.[168]) At least arguably, neither is inherently violent: Video games need not include any violent imagery [169], or even any competition, and the competitive element inherent to sports might not be figured as violent [170]: What can a body do? People wonder.[171,172] Competitive sports is one way our culture tries to answer. Like video games, one can choose to participate in sports [173], and presumably become directly invested in the competition itself. Although sports promotes an ethic of respect & fair play, unfair play is not uncommon [174], and not even respect is demanded of spectators: So-called fans [175] carry the violence off the field of play.[176,177] So whereas playing sports provides an alternative to e.g. military competition, fandom provides a direct analog to patriotism or nationalism [178]: Fans are deeply invested in their teams (or individual competitors) winning.[179] Moreover, this is narrative investment, as some wins are framed as bigger than others [181], and different stories strongly figure the different responses.[182] (Thus it's unclear if sports actually promotes the ethic it claims for itself.[183]) As a spectator activity, sports not only reinforces investment in the visual, but also in mind-body duality: It is someone else's body that is harmed [184] while one watches, yielding an aesthetic of harm or violence.[185] Not only that, but it is someone else whose body is humiliated & disciplined in loss.[187,188] The body of the other is thus further depersonalized [189]: The actual investment is not in the athlete, but in violence and/or competition per se.[190,191] Sports also feeds our investment in ends: It constantly produces (clearly articulated) outcomes.[192]

If we don't feel personally invested (enough) in the narratives of fandom, or even if we do, we can increase (literal) investment by gambling on sports: Since sports produces regular, clear, public outcomes, it's ideal for betting.[193] For people so invested in competition that being a fan of one team is insufficient, gambling on sports provides many ways to win & feel validated. (Winning a bet also brings a tangible reward, making for a double investment.[194] Winning a bet even correlates with sexual activity, marking libidinal investment.[195]) Sports & gambling fit not only because sports has such clear outcomes, but because money is quantifiable [196], so that the two mesh via odds & probability.[197] Gambling (including as divination [198]) greatly predates modern sports & probability, and had a role driving early imperialism [199]: People who weren't going on those voyages could bet on whether they would succeed, including direct financial investment in the enterprise.[200] Fast forward to the present day, and such "risk" is still claimed as justification for profit.[201] Calculating risk itself becomes a kind of investment, investment in the modeling of possibility: Capitalist becoming is predicated on containing the possible.[202,204] (And sports has relatively few possible outcomes.[205,207]) In other words, gamblers & capitalists both invest in familiar outcomes. Some people go on to figure various investments via gambling: One might gamble on which family member to support, which political candidate to bribe, or which market to pursue — all against a background of (contained) probability.

Risk & gambling thus figure the narrative of capitalism: They are even glorified. Successful capitalists are our champion gamblers [208]: They have mastered the system.[210] So not only does capitalism involve (literal) financial investment, but investment in its narratives of fairness, merit, etc.: One "wins" via one's own skill & talent, and maybe a little luck, but never cheating.[211] (Winning is, of course, also about confidence.[213]) The capitalist narrative is totally familiar [215], since we hear it [216] repeated constantly: Be rational, profit is rational, people who accumulate great wealth should be admired [218], etc.: We should invest in the market itself, not only literally, but as the great (only real) arbiter of value: Its results are good.[219,220] (When we see things that are not good, we are mistaken.[221]) In keeping with rationality [222], the neoliberal market becomes increasingly abstract: We buy & sell far more than actual commodities or products, whether financial derivatives, information, potential to produce, speed [223], generality & possibility themselves... the entire bio- & necropolitical bundle. Market investment is thus aligned with our (e.g. emotional) investments more broadly: Its imperialism knows no limit, not even physical reality or the affective domain. Moreover, neoliberalism transforms sovereignty: It's about wealth, yes, but deterritorialized wealth: National territories or borders come to be nothing but barriers to use strategically against other people.[224,225] What does "private" mean in a world with no territorial sovereignty? (Lack of sovereignty is not only at home.) We continue to transform (deterritorialize) states over nature, all while glorifying risk.

In some sense, states over nature enact the interrogation or exploration of reality, dividing it [227] into something we can measure & attempt to know. However, the Earth — particularly absent borders — can be regarded in its entirety.[228] Whereas capitalism is predicated on expansion, on ever-increasing profit, the Earth does not really expand [229], and so competition for scarce resources dominates contemporary capitalist narrative. (Because profits might not be able to expand, overall, against the limits of the Earth, profit-seekers compete against each other, attempting to monopolize scarcity.[230]) We are increasingly invested in competition per se [231]: It has been fused with the capitalist narrative of risk.[232] Perhaps, though, a gambling ethos is not the best stance from which to consider the future of the planet.[233] Hence our era has developed the environmental ethos: I have already figured it as compatible with aesthetics, but we need a compatible economics. What of the aesthetic? Some people do see gleaming skyscrapers as more appealing than the rotting stench of ecology [234], but the Earth is often too familiar to see [235]: Cycles of life & death frighten us, at least if we include ourselves.[236] Yet, this is the very ecology of our own belonging, the environmental theater.[237,238] Such theater invokes violence & discipline [239], discipline of the other [240], violence against the other, violence against the planet: The Earth is figured as the body [241], always subservient to the mind. What of the mind, then? Shouldn't we be more invested in ecology [242] than in skyscrapers?[243] Wouldn't that be more, dare I say it, rational? I already noted how marketing tells us that the world is only for us: This message is clearly incorrect [244]; moreover, it's dangerous: We need an anti-marketing (or non-marketing) that emphasizes relations & connections to & within the world.[245] This is a figure of affective linkage differing from something to buy. (Some people are already being validated by environmental niche marketing, but it can be more transformative.[246,247]) Before marketing per se, liberalism — with its famous tropes, such as the invisible hand — posited a particular relation of individuals to themselves. Perhaps I repeat myself too much, but an emphasis on ecology requires a different (ecological) relationship to oneself. In short, it requires a complete rethinking of the liberal subject, and in turn [248], its politics & economics.[249] What are our values, and how are they arrayed ecologically across the self & others, and ultimately the planet? In what are we really invested?

  1. As long as I'm discussing words & their definitions, I might as well note that the term "title" (which I've used a number of times already) also specifies a legal right to possession. (I suppose one might wonder about the legal right to possess the present article.) So a title evokes power over contents.

  2. See the second Opening for a discussion of this tension.

  3. The term "relation" is also found, used in a similar way, in many of the references for the present article & elsewhere. (We might want to consider it here, sometimes, more specifically in its sense of family relations.)

  4. Definitions for "investment" & related terms were taken from the OED, as per usual in this article.

  5. See Agamben's Opus Dei for an interesting discussion of the term "office" itself.

  6. So, to vest, such as with a pension or stock options, is to secure or settle a right.

  7. In its sense of covering or surrounding, the term "investment" also has (historical) military meanings concerning fortifications & sieges.

  8. This is definition number five in the OED, designated as being specialized language of commerce. It is notable for prioritizing investment as being of company resources, not those of an individual. (This is, of course, the era of the East India Company.)

  9. From Shakespeare's Othello: "Nature would not invest herself in such shadowing passion, without some instruction."

  10. This section will be leaving history largely aside after the opening paragraph.

  11. Psychology is entirely absent from the OED definitions, I should note.

  12. Feeling invested in a person, in the sense of caring about outcomes for that person, is important too. (It's the prototype of parenting, for instance, where it sometimes leads to being overly invested.) However, the following discussion will focus more on things than people.[13]

  13. Healthy investment in another person is in contrast to some of the problems the discussion will evoke. Note, in particular, how the investments to be discussed can in turn structure investment in people, usually for the worse. One might ask further, is the investment really in the person, or is it in something else, with the person only being important in relation to that thing? (The latter can be an issue in parenting, per the previous note.)

  14. I'll also briefly note the origin of the term "happy" (as already discussed in Remède de Fortune, assertion one): It comes from "hap," in the sense of the haptic, something that touches us, i.e. something that happens. Thus note the circularity: Our happiness depends on what is (already) happening.

  15. One can certainly be in denial regarding one's investments.

  16. The image of the familiar leading inside itself hopefully seems familiar by now. (Investment, as affective linkage, interrogates such a motion.)

  17. Investment enacts or conditions attraction. (Investment might be compared to attachment, one of Latour's modes.)

  18. Interrogating investment is thus a way to interrogate politics. (Political positions derive from investments. And political positions, in turn, generate investments.)

  19. My statements on typology must seem very familiar, if not boring. However, I try to remind myself, if no one else.

  20. One item might fade into another, without a clear boundary. My intent is not to establish boundaries, but rather to illustrate relations. I'll also try to keep things moving along in this section, rather than indulging in so many tangents & clarifications.

  21. A comprehensive list of every person's investments & potential investments seems like an impossible project anyway.

  22. I have used "thing" (or earlier, "something") in preference to "object," which is too specific. "Outcome" might be too specific as well, as it emphasizes temporality more than I care to do here. The reader might want to consider this "thing" in Heidegger's sense of Das Ding (although I remain personally reluctant to embrace Heidegger).

  23. I do not want to embrace the full Lacanian interpretation of the subconscious structured as a language (and in turn, the symbolic). Such an interpretation is helpful sometimes, but is not the orientation here. Indeed, investment in language will be considered specifically in a later paragraph.

  24. One can certainly argue that I am giving too much credence to Freudian psychoanalysis by starting with libido, but hopefully it will be helpful for the exposition.

  25. The idea of unconscious desire, together with linking it to sexuality, was the main innovation of psychoanalysis. The latter describes what I'm more broadly characterizing as investment as sublimation, and sees it as mainly adaptive behavior. Classic psychoanalysis thus sees one's basic desires, or at least sexual desire, as problematic and in need of redirection. Such a judgment should not be inferred from my discussion of investment more generally, but I do share the orientation that some kinds of investment are problematic. In both cases, a goal is to understand just what our personal investments are.

  26. Positing a single source of desire is, according to the definition I've been using, basically another kind of fundamentalism. (I'm suggesting here that desire is a kind of value, or a reflection of value.)

  27. Keeping to the quasi-classic psychoanalytic theme of this paragraph, we might designate ego investment similarly. Much of what follows will involve people investing their ego in an outcome, if not their libido (if we embrace those terms).

  28. Such libidinal investment might become part of sex in routine, particularly if it is reinforced. It can become a habitual pattern, and (voluntary) sexual activity outside of certain circumstances might become impossible. (Note that, depending on those specific circumstances, this outcome might be considered healthy.)

  29. A narrative has outcomes, and figures characters & actions in particular ways. In many cases, there needs to be a story of "Why are we having sex?," and the story needs to be routine. Even variations, such as in role play, often keep to the same narrative structure. (Why does pornography usually have a story?)

  30. There is always an excess to any such reduction, reflecting back. (This is negative dialectics.)

  31. Briefly, consider marriage alliances as a prototypical alignment between sex & politics. Note, however, it is marriage that conveys the political power, with sex coming along as part of the narrative of marriage. (Sex outside of that narrative might simply be ignored politically — or not.)

  32. Gay rights advocates tend to emphasize the similar parts of the narratives, i.e. love, monogamy, family, etc. (In other words, e.g. queer love is figured as fitting the dominant political narrative, rather than sitting outside of politics, as it might have in the days of traditional marriage alliances.)

  33. What could be more queer than being invested in e.g. the outcome of sports contests, particularly when one isn't even participating? (Hopefully I'm not undermining the move to take back the term "queer" with such thoughts. One might say that I'm figuring "queer" itself as normal.)

  34. A (heteronormative) script thus facilitates sex in routine: One needn't think or examine. Yet, one must be careful not to deviate from the script, or else those thoughts might come flooding.

  35. People might well be more invested in the script than in the sex. (In other words, we might say that people value the idea of sex more than actual sex.) This suggestion reraises a question already raised by sex in routine: What is sex?

  36. Sexual scripts can, and sometimes do, incorporate all of these other investments. So there is really no "beyond."

  37. Even people who have no contact with family, or perhaps never had a family, can have significant investment in the idea of family, nonetheless. (Thus e.g. stereotypical psychoanalysis focuses on one's mother & father, even when unknown.)

  38. Although I've mentioned & even discussed various kinds of discrimination in the present article, I have largely neglected ageism & age discrimination. One reason is that we change age, unlike e.g. race or (usually) gender, but that does not eliminate the problem. (In fact, it "eliminates" it far less than one might think.)

  39. Heteronormativity has its other quirks, namely details of the male-female mating game, that can't necessarily be attributed to family investment.

  40. I adopt the molar & molecular language of Deleuze & Guattari here. (This is a variant on the thermodynamic language I've used elsewhere.)

  41. Individual-societal power relations, and especially our perception of them, inflect our relationships with ourselves, and in turn the ways we invest socially.

  42. How many families adopt (neoliberal) economic language in their everyday conversation? Such metaphors increasingly permeate & shape society via family via society. (Conformance to economic narrative is also marked especially by race, as family continues to offer a convenient locus for enforcing racial hierarchy. Economic conformance then becomes the standard for a racially inflected sense of family legitimacy.)

  43. When relations become too familiar to be perceived, it is the task of theory to render them unfamiliar once again.

  44. Genetic inheritance becomes merely another kind of narrative in this sense. (For context, my mother was adopted, and I also have an adoptive brother.)

  45. Via the concept of family hierarchy, an investment in family per se can thus become an investment in hierarchy per se. (Here I distinguish between role differentiation & hierarchy, although any such differentiation does tend to yield to hierarchy, as discussed in Hierarchy as rupture.)

  46. To be clear, it is the image of family that doubles the actual family (or its individual members).

  47. One can ask, for instance, how is something that is bad for individual family members good for the family? The same logic applies to national politics, where one might feel that something is "good for the country" even if it is bad for oneself & one's family members. (This is the message of much propaganda today.)

  48. The doubled image of the forge (i.e. with its two main parts) evokes the sort of oscillation between the ideal & the real that images of family, as opposed to actual families, induce: Feel the hammer blows. (Ironically, families are also supposed to impose rationality on their members, as part of conformance to narrative, economic & otherwise.)

  49. Conformance to abstract relations reinforces conformance to broader hierarchy. (Such reinforcement is typically enacted via transcendental theory: Things must be this way.)

  50. Thus family investment is placed in competition with that of other families (especially as racially inflected, per the parenthetical remark of [42]). We invest in winning & losing.

  51. The body thus participates directly in the narrative of hierarchy.

  52. It was also the body that enacted the physical violence of world conquest, let us not forget. (Referring to the superior mind is thus already a form of obfuscation.)

  53. Sexual relations are inflected by similar hierarchical categories. (They are especially marked by gender, of course.)

  54. Bodily reaction to affect might be short-term (i.e. transient), or long-term: The body might be marked (permanently, or at least beyond the stimulus per se) by long-term affective relations. In other words, aspects of one's past might be read via bodily affect.

  55. Perhaps we should view rationality itself as a kind of affective or emotional response. (It is often evoked by rhetoric in a similar way: "Appeals to rationality" are appeals to let a particular sort of discipline overwhelm the complexity of a situation. Rationality is thus a reaction or response.)

  56. Affect is converted, or not converted, to emotional response in the body in ways that are culturally conditioned. So we might ask if e.g. emotions tell the truth. (Such a question would not be asked of affect.) Sartre is far from the only twentieth century theorist to position emotional response as potentially manipulative. (Indeed, such a position for emotional response has become highly gendered in our society. By this, I intend both criticism & acknowledgement of the situation.)

  57. How invested are we in our own health? It varies considerably, as part of a general affective economy of the body. (We might consider e.g. war or immediate pleasure to be more important. Both are supported by contemporary propaganda.)

  58. In other words, we sometimes invest bodily (i.e. invest our bodies — as potentially opposed to e.g. investing our libido). Indeed, we cannot really avoid bodily investment.

  59. Laughing is not only an affective response itself, but can be positioned as enjoyment of some other affective response. Comedy jostles bodies, even so-called cerebral comedy. (We can ask, moreover, about what makes people of different cultures laugh. In that sense, comedy relies on affective conversion akin to that for emotion, and it might be more accurate to characterize laughter as an emotional response. I prefer, however, to view it as lying somewhere between the affective & emotional realms.)

  60. Crying, like laughing, can also be viewed partly as an affective response, although it might be more properly emotional. (Both can spread between bodies without a shared emotional context, for instance, as typical of affect.) Crying often comes at a remove, however, as opposed to the immediacy of laughter.

  61. Disgust is said to be irresistible (and thus paradoxically dismissed as a part of the "lower" senses). For some authors, however (or consequently), disgust provides a map, opening us to worse than the worst (per Brinkema). In contemporary propaganda, "disgusting" images are circulated (particularly via the internet), basically as inoculation against following the gestures of abjection themselves. In other words, disgust produces a halting point, and better (for the contemporary regime) to find that halting point sooner rather than later — after one learns more. Contemporary fascination with disgusting images is then the double of this preemptive move.[62] (So resistance to manipulation is far from absolute.)

  62. As part of the doubling, the founding of aesthetics to "other" disgust (as discussed in the previous section) enacts, in turn, an entire aesthetics of debasement. We see this clearly today (and again, especially on the internet). Debasement is specifically about the body, and so classic aesthetics can be viewed as an attempt to exclude the body.

  63. Thus one might think affectivity even in the absence of bodies. (Whether this is a good idea, I'm not sure.)

  64. Bodily difference can be framed as bodily integrity, and so we might ask, what is bodily integrity in the intersubjective realm?

  65. Absent an othering response, affective circulation might yield a sense of comradery among (very) different people, thus triggering a response from the greater prior investment in hierarchy.

  66. In other words, defining our personal boundaries involves the discovery of what is not us.

  67. Per Latour, scientific representation might be better understood via reproduction, particularly in light of science's emphasis on reproducibility.[68] However, whatever the internal process, science produces a variety of representations that circulate in society: Examples include equations per se, proteins conceptualized as genes, thermodynamic functions, economic functions, etc.

  68. We might say that reproducibility itself relies on familiarity. Is this result like the other result? Is it familiar?

  69. In the context of this deterritorialized circulation of signs, as Lazzarato remarks, it is so-called primitives who remain realists. In other words, whereas so-called primitive cultures have their own signs & representations, these remain linked to the real (i.e. firmly territorialized).

  70. The circulation of signs, in turn, generates circulation of money (or other resources), to be reterritorialized as profit.[71] (In other words, capitalism seeks to generalize exchange, as opposed to the singular repetition of e.g. gift or theft.)

  71. An example (sign) of treating the circulation of signs differently is Steve Coleman's album (title) Harvesting Semblances and Affinities. (It reflects an analogic world view in Descola's terms.) In contrast, capitalism might be characterized not as harvesting similarities, but differences. Harvested differences are then monetized via arbitrage. (Ongoing capitalist exchange requires difference as its fuel.)

  72. It's not coincidence that previously mentioned markers such as race or class, even family, have been (or are) taxonomic categories.

  73. The queer is always a bad example, and so opposed to typology (and the binary, or by extension, the digital).

  74. The concept of "the interesting" is itself a result of typology. (This is my own claim.)

  75. Some (grammatical) relations to the other might even yield a fetish relation to the self, as the other's resistance refigures our object relations per se. (We will start anew with narcissism in the next section.)

  76. The self & other arise simultaneously as poles of/via relation. In that sense, neither is figured by the other (ahem), but they remain reciprocally invested.

  77. Let us recall that the other always exceeds whatever we apply to it (whether grammar, representation, etc.). It is we who are limited by such application. (We might become deluded by our reciprocal formation, and believe that we can contain the other: This is always a bad investment.)

  78. Sexual discipline is an especially popular demand.

  79. In other words, people feel personally validated when the other is disciplined.

  80. The danger of figuring the self as "true" per se should be obvious, but many people go down that road. (After all, the other manifestly lacks discipline.) In a more reflective mood, they might ask e.g., "Which is my true self?" (You are everything you do, I tell them in such moments. I should add "and more," but I rarely do.)

  81. Note that a disciplinary regime positing containment of the other is in seeming contradiction with the always-in-excess of the other, as articulated in [77]. How does this work? (It would certainly be inaccurate to describe the contemporary regime as non-functional.) I already described how....

  82. Nowhere does repetition figure the death drive (to which I don't ordinarily give much credence) more clearly than in media propaganda & marketing. Our deaths might literally be for the gain of the people broadcasting.

  83. Scapegoating tells us which (type of) other most needs to be disciplined.

  84. Conspiracy figures some acts as beyond our ability to know — hence, totally other. (Conspiracy might be the postmodern sublime.) Perhaps this doesn't seem like discipline, but it's a sort of transcendence that the contemporary regime is able to incorporate: It becomes a way to figure critique (which relies on the other, i.e. the world as other than it is) per se.

  85. Cuteness is a kind of object relation, figuring power: The cute object calls out for (our) control, intensifying object relations (perhaps to the point of fetish). "Cute" modulation of object relations thus animates hierarchy. (For example, cuteness is typically gendered, might be racially marked, etc.)

  86. Indeed, Foucault suggested already in the 1980s that the sexual revolution, leading as it did largely to more discussion of sex (and not more sex?), was actually a disciplinary revolution: Many sexual activities no longer escape narrative (solving the "problem" raised by [78]): Even if such sexual narrative proved difficult to incorporate for some people at some times & places, it allows more sexual activities to be disciplined. Thus, we can now conceive homonormativity, etc.

  87. The zany allows no ironic detachment from the activity of work cleaving life: It means total devotion to duty — while being watched.

  88. Even the nomadic is figured today as being in the service of settled "civilization" (i.e. financial profit — which relies on deterritorialized circulation, even as it locates that profit very specifically). Utopia is no longer figured as dangerous, but simply irrelevant: Capitalism is always already everywhere, forcing "nowhere" to become too literal. (It's common to hear people assert that capitalist relations were typical of all times & places, only that people might not have used those terms. Now we've finally realized, they say, that this is how things really are.)

  89. And let us remember that the other is functional for perceiving self, but not in this (disciplined) way.

  90. Making a choice that does not actually please us is one way to choose "irrationally." However, studies show that the act of choosing itself can produce dissatisfaction. (Depressed mood can also lead to the rejection of exchange/choice, meaning that depression & dissatisfaction per se can support the status quo — in contradiction to the narrative of happiness.)

  91. People exhibit "choice blindness," e.g. they will express satisfaction with their choice, even if something else was substituted for their actual (previous) choice. (We might figure this as investment in their own good decision making: Tell them that this was their choice, and they assume that it must have been a good one.)

  92. In our regime of constant narrative discipline, actual information might be scarce (i.e. drowned out), making apathy regarding choice the "rational" response. Studies also demonstrate that people's preference for "fairness" can be modulated by context. Such irrationality is far more relevant to the disciplinary regime than a presumed rationality would be, although the disciplinary narrative (including classical economics) continues to figure choice as rational.[93]

  93. A new form of disciplinary narrative might then attempt to insulate people from their own irrationality, rather than demand that they be rational. (We might not be so far from this shift, and I am not convinced that it will solve anything, at least not from the critical perspective. People will still be invested in their own rationality, even if they allow the other to be irrational. Discipline for the other will become, if anything, more paternalistic.)

  94. In other words, the excess of the other must conform to our template (which is usually some simple binary thing).

  95. Enlightenment (which I might flippantly call fundamentalist — i.e. rational — modernism) authors posited all manner of negative passions as the foundation of society: Fear, envy, jealousy, etc. Note that our justice system is based on exactly these things.

  96. Laruelle's victimology might be appropriate here: Our narrative of justice does not really think the victim. (This might be one way to refigure the "impersonal" value of justice.)

  97. Juridical logic is another way to fetishize both origins (precedent) & endings (findings, sentence).

  98. Note, again, the impersonal aspect here: We are invested in someone being punished. Any other details are less important (and so tend to proceed according to prior hierarchy).

  99. There is a fortuitous double meaning here, as languages are disciplines in the academic sense.

  100. It is easy to observe that sexual discipline is enacted frequently via language: Writing words such as "fuck" etc., which I did already in previous Chapters, will mean that this article (and perhaps this entire website) is excluded by various online nanny services. Our sexual identities are, in turn, narrated: They tell us how to behave.

  101. In this sense, i.e. that of difference into definition, ideology is unavoidable. (So I do not figure it as something to be avoided, but rather as something to be understood.)

  102. Investment in language can even extend inside the self, as already articulated in [23].

  103. Political action is, after all, ultimately collective action.[104]

  104. Political action by an indiscernible group remains an open question. It has traditionally been considered impossible, hence consciousness raising & the like, but perhaps there is a way to avoid the discrete character of discernible identity, for instance via non-linguistic art. (It must be noted, however, that e.g. recognition of group agreement brings a positive hormonal response that in turn drives group solidarity. Such agreement validates our investments, we might say.)

  105. Language supports hierarchy via knowledge of language per se. (The latter is inflected by our familiar typology, of course, including by being a speaker of a different language.)

  106. The aesthetics of language points to its excess (over reductive communication), and allows us to figure relations across domains. The aesthetics of language thus exceeds the content-expression duality, and indeed its capacity to express itself. (Figuring language as the ultimate domain of expression, and in turn representation, was one of the major problems of structuralism. The linguistic turn, exemplified by deconstruction, actually intensified this problem, although it did problematize the content-expression duality.)

  107. The aesthetics of language is captured (sometimes with difficulty) by concepts such as literature. Collective politics raises the issue of e.g. world literature, and cross-language communication more generally. (Some authors even suggest that political autonomy is tied to the creation of a coherent literature. In terms of the present article, this becomes a problem of narrative.) How can we forge groups transverse to national hierarchies? (Capitalism has found one way, focused on its own fundamentalist language of profit.) This is a problem of transdisciplinarity generally: The multiple languages in question need not be national (or regional) languages.

  108. Engagement with political narrative can be framed as a form of capture. (Valéry wrote that a free man does not have opinions.) One could become imperceptible instead, but political engagement is the focus of this Chapter.

  109. This average person is, of course, basically figured as the white male liberal subject — perhaps augmented. However, "the average person" is also really no one at all, a fiction of mathematics.

  110. Note how our concept of political correctness is mediated by the familiar: With familiar people, we don't expect or perceive such miscommunication. (In other words, we speak casually in familiar circumstances.) Political correctness is thus a figure of the (public) unfamiliar.

  111. Some issues to note regarding the circulation of political language are the role of silence [112], adaptability figured as compromise [113], and vulgarity.[114]

  112. As the noisy staging of opinion on reality television already illustrated in the previous section, many people (perhaps all of us) should probably be silent more often. However, silence regarding the circulation of political language tends to be figured in a particular way. It must be allowed to "speak" indeterminacy or indistinction instead.

  113. Teaching adaptive behavior to children is certainly a form of enacting disciplinary conformance. However, being open to options does not necessarily mean compromise: One can hold fast to values while being open to other possibilities.

  114. Mbembe says that vulgarity toward power is actually a form of intimacy with power. (It thus models abusive sexual relationships.)

  115. Despite talk of the value of diversity — particularly when it comes to increasing the consumer market, and therefore profit — diversity is actually accorded zero value in public (and likely, most of private) space. It is, at most, tolerated or accommodated. (To this, standard diversity training language opposes appreciation.)

  116. There is a language of fashion, of course. We could also represent fashion as a system of signs, and thus figure it linguistically. However, I prefer to let fashion represent itself, at least for the present discussion.

  117. Akin to remarks on literature from the previous paragraph, investment in fashion is often an aesthetic investment.[118] (It might be purely political.)

  118. Some people even view fashion aesthetics as duty, via the duty to glory. (Note the religious language.)

  119. For example, fashion is a major site of class envy, and prices might be set accordingly, rather than as related to e.g. production costs. (Class envy is, in turn, cast as a personal moral deficiency, concurrently with the fashion baiting.[120]) Fashion also engages ableism & other ways to relate (to) bodily difference. It can become a form of violence, since it marks the body.

  120. Pasolini remarks that subaltern culture no longer exists, only subaltern economics. (Although this remark has some merit, particularly applied to fashion, I do not believe that it is actually true.)

  121. Since they're individually drawn, it's possible that the trend for tattoos is fueled specifically by a desire to go beyond mass-produced commodities. However, many tattoos seem to be similar, and there is even a trend for machine drawing of a preexisting standard image.

  122. Characterizing art as not being mechanically reproduced is, of course, done with some license. I do not actually want to circumscribe art, as any system can be engaged artistically. So how might we describe an opposite pole to mainstream, mass-produced fashion? Art fashion? Maybe.

  123. Fashion types often figure sexuality. (Different kinds of sex become fashionable? More in the narration than the actuality, I imagine.[124]) Personal choice of both sex & fashion can also be figured as immanence against the transcendence of imposed (mechanical, narrative) options. (Sexual reversal can then be figured within that duality. I.e. one chooses difference within a preexisting set.)

  124. The sexual component of fashion also yields a new, literal meaning for commodity fetishization.

  125. Even difference becomes a specific fashion choice.

  126. As already partially discussed in [119], fashion typing has a historical relation to dress being determined by occupation, which is/was partly practical. (Although fashion remains strongly typed politically, it is no longer as common for it to announce one's occupation specifically, even in daytime attire.)

  127. Converting differences into profit is the nature of capitalism, as already mentioned in [71]: Differences are its fuel.

  128. Whereas some fashions are overtly political, some attempt to deny politics. This is also political.

  129. Fashion is thus a form of (artistic) creation in which form & content (or affect) readily align.

  130. There are, of course, people who work in marketing. (Thus they have a direct investment.) There are others who simply enjoy manipulation (at least of others), or the profit it brings. Perhaps this totals more than a few people, particularly if we include ordinary business owners who also literally invest in (usually modest) marketing.[131]

  131. Judging from public response, the number of people who defend marketing per se — as opposed to individual marketing messages, which can be criticized & sometimes change according to e.g. political correctness — from criticism is nonetheless large. So investment in particular marketing messages does apparently lead to some level of investment in marketing per se. At least in contemporary USA, it is considered to be necessary, perhaps a necessary evil, but necessary. ("How else can people make a living?" the familiar rebuttal goes. Never mind that marketing is a twentieth century invention.)

  132. Marketing attempts to familiarize us with new products. How? It plays on our familiarity, other things in which we are already invested, in order to validate us, and generate investment in the unfamiliar via the familiar. ("This product is really this thing that you already know you want.")

  133. Thus the people who were historically neglected by marketing (many of whom are being targeted now) have the advantage of viewing marketing from its outside. With the expansion of marketing into ever-smaller niches, many of us would have no opportunity to exist (at least as ourselves) today. (Exclusion thus brings a kind of knowledge, investments at least partially unaltered by propaganda, because one is excluded from actually investing. Sometimes I call this sanity.)

  134. Even the same corporate entity can produce contradictory messages for different groups of people, with little criticism. Telling different groups of people what they want to hear is accepted business practice.

  135. In this sense, a narrative is a self. (It was formerly a community, but the scale is decreasing, sometimes rapidly.)

  136. The ability to market directly to individuals, rather than only as a part of groups [137], is indeed revolutionary — as already suggested by [133]. (I will discuss technology further in the next section.)

  137. It has only been a handful of decades, depending on how one counts, since marketing has expanded to target groups beyond its original target, the white middle class (and, within that, women were specifically targeted since the early twentieth century). Marketing has traditionally relied on homology, i.e. the similarities of groups, since having more than a handful of marketing narratives was impractical.

  138. To mimic marketing, we might call these personal identities brands. Today's celebrities speak regularly of their "personal brand," for instance. (This fits nicely with neoliberalism's insistence that we all become entrepreneurs of ourselves.) Marketing establishes a personal identity that we, in turn, market? At that level of feedback, proliferation of identity actually becomes a stabilizing force for the contemporary regime.

  139. Such a proliferation of identities, besides being highly profitable on its own, is also a direct attack on "consciousness raising" efforts. Identity narrative, and with it consciousness, is being atomized.

  140. I'm sure that contemporary USA would describe itself as politically "noisy" in a poll, but it usually debates only minor issues. (Both major parties embrace neoliberalism & corporate profit as the ultimate goal of government.) People are constantly being validated, even in their supposed political disagreements, according to the highly restricted political narrative repeated by the mainstream media here: You only need to choose your channel (and per [137], more choice of the same message is increasingly available).

  141. Signs are deterritorialized (according to our earlier discussion) in order to circulate. In other words, people wear jewelry or tattoos of religious symbols from other cultures, often with very limited knowledge of what they have meant. Such deterritorialization is further aimed at the circulation of signification per se. In other words, asignifying signs circulate to the point that signification itself is deterritorialized. (So people might have very different opinions regarding whether the symbols of the previous example are known or not.) Then the differences generated by this circulation are harvested as profit (prototypically via arbitrage [142]).

  142. To further clarify this point, consider the historical circulation of world trade in the early modern era, i.e. the triangles & world circuits. Each of the stages fed on difference via arbitrage, i.e. differences in price or value in different countries. (Technically, arbitrage should involve nearly simultaneous transactions, but that's today, and this was then. It would have worked with simultaneity, if that were possible.)

  143. Tonal (and some atonal) music is ubiquitous in advertising (and by extension, commercial drama) as a mechanism for modulating affect. (This is a major point underlying the present Chapter, but I will not dwell on it much, because I believe it to be obvious.)

  144. Many readers will be well aware of supposedly clever advertising playing on e.g. sexual desire, but the oblique character of advertising extends far beyond what appears in actual ads. Where does the advertising start & stop on a typical television program? I frequently see e.g. "news" programs, particularly here in Silicon Valley, that are nothing but advertising for some product (and that's discounting the "news" that's nothing but political propaganda more broadly). Again, I believe that most readers are well aware of this. (If you haven't done so, try making a habit of picking out the marketing or political messages in everything around you for a while. Note that such messages need not use words. We are saturated in messages, and the internet only makes that more obvious.)

  145. One might even say that a marketing message has failed to be effective if it does not validate us personally. (Of course, the purpose of the research is to learn how. This was precisely the innovation of marketing per se, as opposed to mere advertising.)

  146. Business conducted in private (secretly) was one of the principal innovations of the early modern period, and so one of the fonts of liberalism. (The "free market" was transformed from a space in which everyone was allowed, and everyone could see what everyone else bought or sold or paid, to one "where" secret transactions were allowed in private space.[147] Note the two concepts of freedom that competed in the seventeenth century economy.)

  147. The transformation of the term "free market" can thus be figured as a transformation of space per se, a deterritorialization of space: The market could be anywhere. (Thus capitalist deterritorialization was literal, in much the way that feeding on differences was literal per [142].)

  148. Television & other media, particularly via their capacity to offer personal validation, long ago became a staple of relaxing at home, in fact. (From this perspective, strangers have been a part of our private moments for decades.)

  149. For example, whereas the opportunity to watch e.g. pornography in the privacy of one's home was welcomed (and note that video pornography did, of course, begin in movie theaters — and some are still around), the thought of a stranger watching one watch porn would usually be unwelcome today. (Private viewing also offers customized viewing, i.e. the rewind button, etc.) Watching (ample) pornography alone is the prototypical image of postmodern loneliness for me.

  150. Such unfamiliarity generates an "animal" instinct of alarm: Hide yourself! (An obvious response to this reaction is to familiarize people with the people who are watching them. It does not require much: People already feel familiar, and thus at home, with e.g. celebrities on television. One needs less privacy around the familiar.)

  151. In yet other words, we want to have control of (our) familiarity.

  152. Such surveillance or research might already seem both impersonal & familiar enough that it doesn't generate fear (per [150]): For example, everything people say on the internet is stored & analyzed for trends.[153] (Such mining will only increase. In this sense, literature itself is a laboratory.) Google is the largest market research company the world has ever seen, and this is only the beginning (per [136]).

  153. As a further example, I had the experience of my (teen) daughters being asked to do all of their school writing via a commercial web portal — which we were told had no intention of exploiting them for marketing purposes, but also offered no legal assurance otherwise. (It was supposed to be for the "convenience" of the teachers in detecting plagiarism.) I was considered to be a kook for refusing.

  154. I am reminded of the way Lacan figures anxiety via absence & imminence: Anxiety comes in a rush when we actually begin to perceive the scam, even if we know in principle that it was always out there.

  155. People might not be very interesting in some ways, but I could easily find questions I'd consider worth answering on a broader scale: For instance, how is diversity treated in the home versus in public? What sorts of values do people express in personal moments? My information on questions such as these remains anecdotal, but they become possible to address systematically via data mining. And then, how does people's behavior change if they believe they are being watched? (The latter might soon be a permanent condition.)

  156. Marketing data (i.e. in the large) does not seem to frighten people. Rather, they are afraid of a more personal sense of watching — sometimes figured as e.g. identity theft, or stalking, etc. We do not want the unfamiliar to be too familiar with us. (We might feel validated by the familiar becoming more familiar with us, pace [151].)

  157. Privacy will become a product one can purchase at a (high) price. (This is already true for e.g. celebrities, etc.[158])

  158. What if ordinary people need a special vacation "getaway" in order to fuck in private? (Never mind that the getaway itself announces the fucking.) Are we about to enter some kind of new age of orgies? (My comment at the end of [149] about postmodern loneliness seems to suggest otherwise. We'll just be a lot more aware that we, personally, are not having sex: Yet another marketing opportunity!)

  159. Will the transformation of privacy per se make a difference to the specifically liberal business investment in privacy, per [146]? The ability to put resources in foreign bank accounts has already changed (in USA anyway), supposedly due to terror concerns, but e.g. tax accounting remains under a legal regime involving much privacy. This & other legal regimes addressing issues of privacy will certainly be figured (further) by hierarchy as they evolve. In brief, as in [157], some people will buy privacy.

  160. What will technological change bring to these other sensory domains in the future? (Again, I wonder how terrible a new age of orgies can possibly be.)

  161. In this space, my focus is on music, and the inability to look away from noise pollution is a constant concern in my life. (Hearing is my dominant sense.)

  162. Scopic fixation is essential to the current disciplinary regime. (This is obvious to someone who isn't visually oriented.) Many (young?) people believe they cannot look away from certain kinds of visual stimuli, but this is a conditioned response. The internet has trained them further (and note that graphics worked well on computers, according to basic standards, long before sound did). Indeed, pornography is usually figured as visual, to the point that other sorts of presumably appealing images are termed "porn" in casual conversation. Again, this is scopic fixation.

  163. Perhaps this is the place to mention the possibility of asignifying or non-representational motion pictures (cinema). How might one fend off the gaze in such a medium? Such a possibility raises questions of e.g. motion & consciousness.

  164. The (scientific) visualization of the world can also be figured as aestheticization via the image of a painting.

  165. We are told to know the other by how it looks. We attempt to cover our smells, but accentuate our looks. (Ask a dog how much sense this makes).

  166. Note that whereas ocularcentrism is embedded in many of our political narratives — such as regarding the other — it is not expressed as a direct investment. It remains obscured, presumably on account of the disciplinary reliance on scopic fixation. (In other words, whereas the outcomes of ocularcentrism are too familiar to see, the idea itself is unfamiliar.) If technology eases such reliance, the narrative around ocularcentrism could develop rapidly.

  167. Although I refer to sex, pornography & orgies here, these are not considered to be mainstream & therefore proper viewing for e.g. young people. However, violent imagery is mainstream & often escapes censorship.

  168. We have yet to experience the spectacle of millions of people (at once) watching others participate in a video game, but it could happen.

  169. One can also argue that e.g. killing someone on a video game is a lot less harmful than killing someone somewhere else. (I think it's obvious that violence leads to violence, in general at least, not in every specific instance, but considering how much violence is already around us, an outlet in video games might not be a bad thing sometimes.)

  170. Indeed, the Olympic movement framed sports as a way to avoid violence via another outlet for physical competition. (In this sense, it is also posited as a replacement for politics, specifically war. Sports becomes another disciplinary regime, employed to preserve the status quo.)

  171. What a body can do need not be framed in terms of competition, of course. Our society prefers to place even e.g. dance in a competitive environment, though. (Indeed, our society frames many things as competitive via evolutionary narratives. It's ubiquitous.)

  172. Playing like an animal certainly transcends mass market sporting events. (It might not come with much narrative, though.)

  173. Participation in sports, at least to some degree, appears to be mandatory for most students in USA secondary schools. It's part of "physical education."

  174. I refer to the various doping scandals at one extreme, or simply getting in a physical poke at someone at the other.

  175. The etymology of "fan" as fanatic is apt enough, i.e. people who care more than is reasonable about the outcome of sports.

  176. Professional athletes are well paid — at least in many sports — and are something of a small club, meaning that although they might have grudges, the days of players really hating each other are mostly gone. (Some fans lament this!)

  177. And violence does regularly come to the field of play, via "fouls" or other infractions of the rules, if not via the direct rules of competition. It's much easier to hit someone in some sports than others (i.e. within the natural course of play), of course, with sports that are directly based on hitting at a further extreme. (For example, hitting other players is common in basketball, despite being against the rules. Hitting other runners in sprinting is not common at all.)

  178. Note that sports fans figure fandom as positive (even though they might lament their circumstances frequently), and so such investment reinforces investment in nationalism as positive. (This is an argument via similarity of investment, as is this entire section, rather than an argument about displacing aggression. As with video games, I find the latter to be at most partial.)

  179. As already mentioned, sports fans are clearly libidinally invested. (When might a video game fan be libidinally invested? I'm sure it has happened....) Their entire mood can rise & fall with their team, during the course of a game or a season or beyond.[180] (For me, this phenomenon is most conspicuous with the fans of major professional sports, but it's cultivated in e.g. high school & college as well. How much, and what kind, of sex happens at these institutions after wins or losses?)

  180. Fandom creates an identity & ideology. It is even accompanied by fashion, i.e. costumes & team colors. Fandom is, thus, often quite public. (Given its highly libidinal quality, I consider it to be a form of public sexual activity: Wearing a team jersey is analogous to wearing e.g. a leather harness. Children are also encouraged to join the narrative from an early age.)

  181. Typical sports narrative involves "championships," i.e. particular matches as consummation of entire seasons. That these are accorded greater value than many other wins combined seems incredibly obvious to people who are invested in sports narratives.

  182. Creating narratives for sporting events is big business. (Sporting events support many narratives & potential narratives.)

  183. Sports narrative & investment is framed by other narrative & investment, so that a positive or negative ethic for sports becomes more broadly contextual. (As I hope the present section illustrates, investments are not easily separated.) So the question of sports' contribution to ethics cannot be answered in general.

  184. Even sports without hitting or other kinds of overt violence can lead to injury: This is true of running, car racing, etc. (It's also true that e.g. dance can lead to injury.) Sports is about the body, and in turn about bodily discipline, sometimes harm (the latter being one possible outcome of asceticism, more broadly).

  185. Supposedly, the most violent & unexpected (novel) events, such as a huge car crash, lead in turn to huge audience responses — such that people are actually hoping (unconsciously, usually) for such an event. Although sports viewers openly lament any death, they also do not look away.[186] (I cannot relate to this: I look away, etc.)

  186. This is one way in which contemporary society enacts its own (passive) traumatic response.

  187. Note that sports competition produces many losers: In a competition between two teams, there is always a loser (or there might be a tie, which many sports fans loathe), and in a competition between many individuals (such as an Olympic sprint), there are more losers than winners. In other words, there would seem to be a lot more losing in sports than in the rest of life — although I'm sure there are people who figure us as always already losers. (If by this, one means that we all die eventually, then I can agree that we all lose.)

  188. Sports fans might even turn violent against players on their own favorite teams — if only with sarcasm, etc. (Discipline of the other is thus accompanied by disgust.)

  189. Sports thus figures sexual dominance & humiliation, and in turn sexual violence. (Domestic violence is a hot topic in professional sports, especially football, as I write. Unfortunately, I do not believe that the current outrage — finding its outlet in giving the football league more power, in this case over criminal justice, not less — is going to help anything, broadly speaking.) Many people already view — and I believe the visual language to be apt here — heteronormative sexuality as a competitive sport.

  190. Because of the frequency of players changing teams in the contemporary era of professional sports (i.e. subsequent to free agency, which started in baseball in the 1970s), Jerry Seinfeld famously remarked that fans root for laundry. These days, teams even change jersey designs with great frequency. Perhaps fans will agree someday that they are actually rooting for the owners of the teams (or even more accurately, brands) — if not violence and/or competition per se. (In terms of the present article, they are rooting for the familiar over the unfamiliar, even if the familiar slowly changes.)

  191. Similar to the sports hero — or at least the average player who allows the hero to be a hero — the zany figures work cleaving life. The zany is likewise depersonalized for the audience, absorbing critique, perhaps further jostling bodies. (As per [187], the zany might very well lose this game.)

  192. As opposed to most outcomes, sports produces outcomes in (nearly) full view of the public. (The industry of professional sports also has its own secret negotiations, separate from the sporting events themselves, but underpinning them.)

  193. The potential narratives mentioned in [182] are thus some of the many possibilities on which one can bet.

  194. Many gamblers find competition to be boring if they don't have something more tangible at stake. (These people apparently cannot be satisfied with fandom as articulated in [175].)

  195. Sexual rush combined with winning money is a perfect situation for prostitution. (Add in some violence, and it all sounds like a familiar racket. This might be a place to consider the neuroscience of risky decision making.)

  196. Accounting convenience is the purpose of money (as opposed to other goods & services).

  197. The urge to quantify (investment in quantification per se) is also satisfied by the fusion of sports outcome & money. (This is a reductive investment, i.e. an investment against complexity.)

  198. I figure gambling broadly as an allocation technique.[199]

  199. See Remède de Fortune, assertion three, for more discussion of the relation between gambling & the modern economy.

  200. The definition of "success" would have needed to be clear for early bets. Taking a share of the spoils, although necessitating more mathematics, obviates the need to define success per se, at least for the purposes of gambling.

  201. Investment in profit might well use people, but it is not an investment in people. The return goes only to oneself. (Such investment recapitulates self-other duality.)

  202. The assertion about capitalism seeking to contain the possible is critical: If risk adheres to its model, the house always wins, so to speak. Hence, capitalist risk isn't risky for established capitalists, provided that the possible is indeed contained.[203] (Nonetheless, established capitalists insist upon windfall gains, of course.)

  203. So-called "chaotizing," the manufacture of supposed risk, thus becomes something of a ruse: Mathematics can be used almost to hypnotize people, leaving aside that the capitalist is already in position to benefit from all the possible outcomes (provided they remain contained). Another way to consider this is as positing a known-unknown duality, but nonetheless figured together as a container. (Of course, sometimes containment does fail, particularly if one takes it for granted. So capitalist containment is active.)

  204. Neoliberal fundamentalism seeks further containment of the possible by restricting relevant outcomes to those quantifiable by money. (Together with [197], such fundamentalist investment can be figured as a fetish.)

  205. Sports betting has become much more sophisticated than winning or losing a game (perhaps with odds or a point spread): Not only are there bets on more specific occurrences ("prop bets"), but it is possible to hedge one's bets using a time series, much like in the stock market.[206] Many or most of the same methods (or products) are available.

  206. Hedging one's bets is also a way to hedge one's investment as a fan: I know I'll get either the thrill of my team winning, or the thrill of winning money. (Many fans consider such hedging to be sacrilege, but some do it anyway. The reader might want to consider what this kind of hedging means more broadly for society.)

  207. Sports fandom, as rooting for the familiar, thus models capitalist investment in containing possibility.

  208. The line between being a socially acceptable stock market tycoon & a socially unacceptable gambler [209] is remarkably thin. (The line is even thinner in e.g. the world of the technology startup.) The biggest difference is probably the quantity of money being exchanged, if we're going to examine the actuality. Note also my remark on the prehistory of gambling as divination: The notion that gambling (and hence playing the stock market) reflects the will of god still lurks.

  209. As I write this, despite its ubiquity, do note that sports betting — along with many other common kinds of gambling — is illegal in most of USA. (Rumblings suggest that it might not remain so.)

  210. Never mind that such capitalist "mastery" is often predicated on family wealth accumulated before they were born, and passed via inheritance — i.e., investment in family, the familiar.

  211. If the rules (of the system) allow it, then it isn't cheating. (Such an observation is helpful even as tautology, particularly when observers might consider something to be cheating: If it continues to be allowed, it must not be cheating![212])

  212. Note that this sort of outcome-based tautology is similar to the situation in sports: Even if it's determined (after the fact) that a mistake was made during a match (a mistake by a referee, for instance, such as an illegal play that wasn't noticed), the outcome of the match generally still stands. The ethic of sports is to accept these outcomes as final: So is the ethic of capitalism. (They'll both accept some violence too, if that helps in declaring a winner.)

  213. Confidence is the tone of both imperialism & capitalism: We have every right! Get out of my way![214] (The "confidence man" is the figure of late modern capitalism, with its renewed emphasis on insurance, etc.) If you only had the right attitude....

  214. It might be more accurate to call "obnoxious" the aesthetic of neoliberal capitalism. (Sometimes it seems that the more toxic something is, the more those invested in neoliberalism like it. Such people in USA seem to take pride in using more energy or water, for instance, in the face of shortages.)

  215. I've made similar remarks already. I will try to move along quickly here, rather than indulge in too much repetition.

  216. Of course, we are also immersed in capitalist (and more specifically, neoliberal) narrative via other senses as well. (As the present section has illustrated, such immersion happens at the formal level too: Our investments are structured to mirror capitalist investment.[217])

  217. This is a critical point, because neoliberal apologists will tell us that they are only doing what is natural, i.e. that it is capitalism which mirrors human investment more broadly, rather than the reverse.

  218. Anal logic permeates the capitalist narrative, not only in valorizing the stockpiling of resources, but in insisting e.g. that the public accommodate the negative outputs of privatization (after the profits are extracted).

  219. Many people do invest in capitalism per se: People from a wide variety of situations reflexively defend capitalism against public criticism. It's certainly not confined to people who are wealthier than average, at least not here in USA. (Some of this is more basic defense of status quo per se, or simply of endings. Hence, it reflects investment in containment.)

  220. This is capitalist capture at its most fundamental: Accepting market tautology (per [211]) as not only how things are, but how things ought to be. ("Hey, why fight it?" the most breezy narrative of power goes, "Join us!")

  221. The "best possible world" narrative can be used to combat perceptions of problems, or they can simply be denied: Contemporary marketing & propaganda have become quite adept at telling people that they are not seeing what they are seeing: Play on people's investments, and the fact that reality can be rather unpleasant to see. (Those who live that reality have no such choice, of course. And if neoliberal regimes need to become violent with them, it probably didn't happen either, or they had it coming, or....)

  222. The rational is, after all, already an abstraction. It's an appeal to something external.

  223. Although it's tempting to say more about other elements of this list, pace [215], I do want to note how much the neoliberal market detests slowness. Everything needs to happen faster & faster (hence accelerationism, which I will not discuss in detail). We feel this directly in the increasing pace of our lives. (We're supposed to scurry for others' ever-increasing profit, per [201].)

  224. In other words, national borders are permeable to capital, but not very permeable to people. This difference enacts a basic power imbalance, with the border as the enforcement tool.

  225. Without territorial sovereignty, or at least with the ability of some to escape it constantly, we get the spectacle of "international law" — and its further differential application. (Some people can use the law, and some cannot.) Of course, this is just a refiguring of imperialism, with its flouting of national sovereignty, hence neo-imperialism or financial imperialism.[226]

  226. Is USA now a postcolony? (In that sense, we are behind e.g. Africa in learning to cope.)

  227. Analysis — see also [218] — specifically implies division.

  228. We can & do conceive the Earth as a whole. (Supposedly, views from orbit were critical to developing this sense, but I am very skeptical of that.)

  229. More resources are discovered; new ways to use resources are developed. The Earth continues to expand a bit in this sense, but there are limits. (Hence we have the rhetoric of space exploration, i.e. exploitation, in order to undermine discussion of planetary limits. According to this narrative, I guess, predatory profit-taking can expand to fill the entire universe. Sounds lovely!)

  230. Monopoly is thus double: It's not only a means to extract excess profit beyond classic market equilibrium (something that neoliberal glorification of the market, paradoxically, supports enthusiastically), but to maintain control of a specific scarce resource. To collapse the double, a specific (captured) market could be figured as a scarce resource.

  231. Competition & scarcity are figured in evolutionary terms, i.e. as natural, despite that (human) evolution did not occur under such a regime of planetary saturation. In other words, new behavior in the face of new conditions is justified via appeal to abstract concepts of prehistory. And prehistory is always figured as violent, the premodern is always figured as violent, so that such an appeal justifies violence.

  232. Note that the early modern plunderers could readily avoid competition with each other. (Competition can be figured as a kind of risk, but that was not the latter's origin.)

  233. The paradox of unlimited wealth accumulation on a finite planet is already enough to give many readers pause, I'm sure.

  234. Our relation to microorganisms is, once again, neglected. (And the visual was, intentionally, figured as superior to the olfactory by my imagery.)

  235. The extreme familiarity of the Earth also lets us believe (and such a belief is cultivated by profit-seekers) that it is inexhaustible. This is another failure to see or perceive.

  236. Profit-seeking is repetition-compulsion in this context.

  237. In environmental theater, I distinguish actors & stage, but actors will fuse with (return to) the stage as new actors emerge. Such an actor-stage duality is only a snapshot, obliterated by the passing of time. (And a return to the stage might be figured rather differently than I've done here.)

  238. Environmental theater forges or conditions a variety of investments, including in fashion & sex. (It also forges or conditions investments in opposition, whether to itself or as opposition per se.)

  239. Once again, I touch on an aesthetics of violence — which we will need to confront.

  240. An environmental ethos has also produced new forms of self-discipline (i.e. asceticism).

  241. One criticism of object-oriented phenomenology, with its emphasis on the agency of objects, has been that it reinstates the numinous, i.e. the action of some transcendent deity, via affective objects. In this sense, the Earth-as-body is the Earth-as-object, and if we are to consider it as subject, concerns over figuring it as some sort of transcendental deity are (frankly) secondary to my own. After all, the Earth is much bigger than any of us (although not so big that we cannot affect it). Maybe we should worship it.

  242. Moreover, although I don't want to continue talking about mind-body dualism, isn't an investment in ecology a bodily investment? It involves many affects.

  243. I'm speaking of collective investment. Some people can certainly continue to specialize in skyscrapers.

  244. Hence the world is not private. Little or nothing really is.

  245. Let me be clear: The difficulty in developing a non-marketing is not technical. It is with the priorities of the people who control communication channels. Such relations & connections are fairly well understood, and would only become better understood with investment in communicating them more broadly.

  246. Indeed, environmental niche marketing has become rather common. However, it is usually placed in the service of capitalist profit. Ecology needs to be central. Without that centrality, such marketing will serve to obscure relations more than illuminate them. (In other words, the narrative of personal responsibility for the environment has been fused with the neoliberal narrative of personal responsibility to be the entrepreneur of one's life: So pick up some trash, but be more concerned with your company's stock price.)

  247. Public messaging does have people concerned about the environment around them, but they are often quite willing to engage in nimbyism, i.e. forcing others to deal with such issues instead. (One need only retain a certain myopia for nimbyism to proceed. It needn't be a conscious attack on others, but sometimes it is, and of course it proceeds hierarchically: Who has the power to avoid the toxic hot potato?)

  248. First change the subject, then change economics & politics. (Nothing with so many relations & feedback loops is ever so simple in practice, however.)

  249. Like the Earth, the liberal subject can easily remain too familiar to see. Hopefully I am taking a step toward defamiliarizing it.

Technologies of the Self

Nothing is more familiar than the self. Likewise, nothing is more political than the self.[1] The self is not only a pole of affective linkage & interaction, but a locus of affective linkage itself [2], a kind of loose wrapping around a package of relations of (partially) unknown content.[3] The self is not so much opposed to or separate from society, as it is an interface belonging to society.[4]

The title of this section is borrowed from Foucault [5], and besides a few opening remarks derived from Foucault & a few other authors, requires a discussion of the term technologies itself: Technic is a Greek term meaning "of or pertaining to art,"[6] and in later European usage, "especially mechanical or industrial." It refers especially to the "mechanical or formal part" of "artistic execution or performance." (Art, as something one does or creates, was thus not really opposed to technology until the twentieth century.[7]) Something or someone technical is "skilled or practically conversant" in (especially) formal methods. Technology was (literally, in Greek) a "systematic treatment of grammar" [8] and later (in English), a "treatise on an art or arts." So, in other words, technology, as used here, is a study or body [9] of formal methods, and in turn, the instantiation of those methods. (Technology, as a study, thus enacts a distance, at least partially transcending the immanence of self.[10]) Moreover, I am using the plural (as did Foucault [11]), in order to underline the variety of technologies used in creation & maintenance of the self.[12]

Foucault's discussion (archeology) has an orientation toward Christianity, and traces Christian belief in something hidden inside oneself, first to be discovered as something good, then to be feared as something bad.[13] This hidden thing has figured self-discovery & separation more generally via Christian transcendentalism. Foucault also discusses policing as a broad technology, beyond criminality per se [14]: Such technology figures subjection, then, in the sense of crime & oppression, as well as in the sense of creating the subject itself. Let me go on to discuss technologies, in a more contemporary sense [15], as objects or systems that help us to do something — in this case, create & maintain the self. (Note that the "artist" in such creation & maintenance is, at times, partly the self, but never entirely the self.) Proceeding literally [16] with perceiving self, the prototypical technology was once the mirror [18], and now it's the (gadget snapping the) selfie.[19] We fetishize commodities that are (only) for fetishizing the self.[20] Technologies of the self have never been more directly [21] profitable. Before proceeding, not only should I let this technological image (of images) linger for a moment, but I should consider my own vanity: How vain is the present article? Is it my own selfie? (I'm using similar prototypical technology to capture it [22], albeit not so trendily.) Attempting to figure the self seems rather vain already, although I'm certainly not the only person writing on the topic. Even my belief that some readers might find this discussion to be helpful probably derives, at least partly, from vanity.[23] Or is this the Puritans speaking? Perhaps so, but I do feel that I need to retain a healthy skepticism regarding my own motives (and consequently, health [24]).

The self, then, is defined (i.e., created & maintained) via technologies. What kinds of technologies, besides those of the visual image? How did the self even become a separate, individual thing? (The visual image encapsulates that separation.) Arguably [25], there was no particular sense of ordinary individuality prior to the modern era: One had aristocrats or heroes, who might have traits [26], but the individual person was beneath specific description.[27] Moving beyond Western culture [28], we might consider self-world modes more generally [29]: Just how did we decide that the world is the same for everybody, but that we all have different minds (or selves)? Mind-body dualism played a crucial role there, but individuality per se had been developing for much longer.[30,31] Such a dynamic also played a critical role in world conquest, enacting the superiority of the (individual) mind over the collective body.[32] In turn, the self is viewed as a locus of control [33]: Its boundaries are interrogated according to what we can (perceive about [34]) control. (The self, conceived as part of a dual, is thus always explored via interrogation or dialog.[35]) As fascinating as this history can be [36], the present Chapter is about the contemporary world, so let's return our focus to here & now (& looking forward): What other modes are possible, i.e. what other ways to be? What technologies enact or inhibit changes to the self? In what might we be or become invested?[37] I will certainly not provide a comprehensive survey of answers to these questions [38], but I do want to consider some more specific contemporary technology, before proceeding with a discussion of how (else) it might be applied (differently).

I was raised to regard food, clothing & shelter as the essential technologies [39]: I return often to these prototypes, although I've since learned to be suspicious of the "the." Food, clothing & shelter continue to be essential technologies, and so are not only the focus of various kinds of politics [40], but are related to various other technologies, both newer & older. For instance, we might consider the technologies involved in producing a plate of food in front of us (including that it is in front of us), which ones are new, which have changed, which are the same, etc.[42] Moreover, we can consider how food, clothing & shelter forge our sense of self: What do we eat? What do we wear? Where do we live? (Such questions invoke identity politics galore, along with other forms of discipline. Consider further who decides what our options are: A food company executive somewhere? A fashion designer? Our peers?[43]) Such technologies involve production technology per se, including social components such as Fordism & Taylorism: These latter technologies are more clearly disciplinary [44], and bring with them broad effects for the self: People change in response — let me emphasize that no one really seems to dispute this: Changes in technology change us. Now we have the internet & its associated new technologies. Since these technologies generate windfall profits [45], they do and/or are allowed to proceed as fast as possible [46], with any changes they cause left as problems for others to solve: The regime of law has little idea how to react, for instance, at any level.[47] Moreover, I might summarize runaway technological development [49] as creating a meaning deficit: We don't even know what it means.[50] Nonetheless, technology such as internet advertising & data collection sculpt the self: Go here, see this [51], here are the individualized search results that you really wanted: Information technology attempts to script the familiar.[52] Moreover, information technology attempts to manipulate the familiar via artificial intelligence, computers posing as people: I mean to include very crude attempts, namely computers that respond to you, perhaps with a human voice, but always follow a specific script.[54] Suddenly the non-human [58] demands human compassion?[59,64] Such situations give new meaning to non-bodily & machinic circulation of affect.

Affects circulate via interfaces, and new technology has created a variety of new interfaces [65] — and with them, new relations to old interfaces, new bundles of affective relations, etc.: Affect becomes more literally machinic [66], as its relations also become more abstract.[67] Abstract circulation of affect as & via machines is thus one way to figure the subconscious, and in turn, something like the internet gives us a means to figure the relative size of unconscious circulation: Such an image might seem absurd, but given the preceding discussion, consider from where you might get your ideas & provocations. (I'll wait while you do that.) Okay, so, the liberal self is rather small — other than in ambition [68] — and reliant on various intersecting technologies.[69] Many of those technologies are changing rapidly.[70] What is the role of habit amid such changes? Habit is a kind of repetition [71], but also reflects the way our minds work: Once we learn something [72], we (can) do it without thinking.[73] (This frees our minds for other activity.) Such habits can, in turn, be engaged via technology, actively mutated, we might say. Much technology facilitates habit, by making (unthinking) repetition easy [74], and now technology can capture that habit & apply it to something subtly (or not so subtly) different.[75] Habit into disinhibition? (Disinhibition itself can become almost habitual.[76]) What of relaxing at home? How much (active [77]) technology penetrates our most uninhibited moments? Relaxing itself has become a technology, and messages in those moments motivate us at other times (perhaps without our conscious knowledge).[78,79] Thus we make (or accept) changes, sometimes big changes, via the mechanisms of habit. What is the relation between consciousness (presuming that we want to make our changes via conscious decision [82]), and disinhibition? These notions do not really align [84], but they touch via contingency & indecision.[85] Meanwhile, they might be traced by the familiar: The familiar is, after all, by its nature, prior. The familiar relates [86] to all interfaces (bodily, technological, etc.), but especially to self-formation via the family per se [87]: It enacts our knowing the words [88], our difference into definition (identity), etc. In other words, family is a technology that is, in turn, mediated by other technologies [89,90]: Family forges our habits & inhibitions [91], which we might, in turn, consciously (or unconsciously) change. So where & how is the self or subject — the liberal subject, or even the queer subject [93] — situated within the affective economy of family? There are many technologies of "how," and I have touched upon some of them. Although a more comprehensive discussion might be warranted, I want to consider the self not so much as situated within an economy [94], but as related to an ecology.

Ecology is used in its familiar sense here, namely encompassing biological relations, both within the biological realm per se & to other physical processes. In the previous section, I discussed (some of) our investments, and suggested more investment in both people (versus things) & planet. In this section, I want to ask how we engage (what I might call) planetary technology. Although investment in people over things is certainly preferable in many of the contexts raised, our investment in people cannot go beyond our investment in the planet [95], and in turn, we need to find ways to work with the planet in order to satisfy ourselves. I have already posited that the liberal subject constructs a particular relation of individuals to themselves, and so I want to consider the technologies by which one might construct a different subject, an ecological self. First, the concept of "individual" needs interrogation: We have already considered a number of ways in which selves are actually divided [96], and not only do our relations involve various different interfaces, interfaces that might not be consciously known to each other, but I want to note (again, as clearly as possible) that biological relations include those within our physical bodies themselves: We depend upon microorganisms [97], and our bodies are directly symbiotic in ways that are rarely acknowledged.[98,99] In other words, an ecology of self is already literal in the physical sense, and our actions not only affect the biological world around us, but inside us: These domains are not separate in any relevant sense: The environment permeates us.[100] Therefore, an ecological relationship to oneself is an ecological relationship more generally. Before exploring some further consequences of such perception of self, I want to consider the contemporary mania to collect, i.e. to fetishize objects & images, particularly of oneself: People seem to spend more & more of their lives watching themselves, i.e. living in an object relation to themselves [101], and are in turn obsessed with preserving tangible memories.[102] The opposite of such collecting — and recall the relation of memory to habit [105] — is forgetting.[106,107,108] Perhaps more to the current point, our planetary ecology is good at forgetting [109]: We not only die, but our materials are "recycled" into something else, over & over [110]: Our bodies are created from other organisms, and not only via food or symbiosis. What is familiar?

It is not only affect which circulates, but physicality itself.[111] So how might we engage with planetary technology in ecological relation? To some extent we already do, but what does this mean for an ecological — or ecology of — self? For one thing, the circulation of signs often bypasses or escapes language, meaning that signification itself moves beyond language via machinic subjectivity.[112] In other words, me talking about an ecology of self is not going to enact an ecology of self, and is little more than a gesture.[113] Affect absent bodies, indeed affect absent expression suggests de-privileging the spectator per se: Ecological relation is not via the image, but via direct investment.[114] In other words, you're going to have to work it out for yourself — and not via images of yourself. What then of loss?[115] Contemporary society has difficulty dealing with any kind of loss [116], but ecological circulation encompasses loss. It's inherent.[117] Touching briefly on economics, any self-interest is likewise predicated on planetary investment, an outgrowth of ecology itself. From the perspective of ecological circulation, the self loses its discrete character, becoming that partial wrapping [118] for a variety of relations of which we might or might not be aware: We don't know, and might never know, the consequences of much of what we do — we might not be aware that we even did anything, yet doing (or circulation) continues apace.[119] If dualities are a technology for interrogating the real [120], and in turn (ecological) circulation, then we must remember that such simplifications are not real. Contemporary society has enacted the shrinking of aesthetic capacity [121,122], and perhaps that's the most important of planetary technologies, at least for what we people do: So we must reverse the trend.[123] That said, when I say that language is insufficient to this topic, what I am saying is that a preexistent form or system is insufficient to life [124]: We must improvise. Moreover, the planet improvises. (Or did you think that it follows a strict plan?[125]) How does one cultivate a technology of improvisation?[126] Improvisation might become a habit [127], in some sense [128], but it's also about embracing disequilibrium [129] & the unfamiliar. What other modes are possible, i.e. what other ways to be?

So now let's (finally) consider another technology of self, music, a little more specifically....

  1. Per Braidotti, the self is "politics by another name."

  2. Please excuse my use of the particle "self" redundantly, here & (I imagine) in forthcoming parts of the discussion. Perhaps I should have made an effort to eliminate it from my phrasing? Perhaps not.

  3. Although I hope that it's helpful, even this wrapping-package image might suggest too much of a discrete character for the self: The wrapping isn't separate from the package, unless we consider the term/concept itself to be the wrapping. In other words, the self isn't really separate from its relations.

  4. Hence the self is a kind of political technology.

  5. I actually derived this title myself (although likely, at least partially, via unconscious memory), and only subsequently thought that it sounded "too familiar." At that point, I found & read the text by this title, oriented around Foucault's late lectures in Vermont. Foucault's contribution to that text is more of a beginning than an ending, and indeed it is accompanied by essays from other authors who attended his seminar. The present section is another such contribution to the project, broadly speaking, and I have decided to go ahead & reuse the title.

  6. Once again, I turn to the OED, as a standard for such matters. (Note, however, that I consider the OED to be rather political in many areas.) I will try not to dwell too long on quoting definitions. It starts seeming tedious to me, but I also feel as though I need to be sure that (at least some) terms are clear before I start the actual discussion. (Note that the French spelling, "technique," has had a somewhat different usage history in English from the German-Greek technic.)

  7. The opposition of art & technology was, of course, forged in part by Benjamin's famous essay, in the wake of the coming dominance of mechanical reproduction. (I do use this presumptive opposition in other discussions of the present article.)

  8. The (original) relation to grammar thus recalls "the grammar of the other" from the previous section.

  9. Pace [2], this use of "body" was rather intentional.

  10. The "formal" aspect of this discussion will, therefore, require constant translation. Much will be left to the reader.

  11. Foucault, whose writing even from the 1980s still shows various signs of structuralism, also specified four types of technologies, technologies of production, signs, power, & self. (These are mutually invested, in my terms.)

  12. The creation & maintenance of the self is thus an art, at least in the traditional sense.

  13. That the self is an irredeemable sinner is an idea Foucault traces specifically to the Puritans. (Of course, we in USA have a major legacy from Puritanism. Today, that legacy remains in force in the sexual realm, but apparently, violence is not much of a sin.)

  14. It's fascinating how many functions of state were conceived as "police" functions in historical France. This included policing, or disciplining we might now say, the self. (Sloterdijk might reframe such a study as ascetology.)

  15. These other meanings for "technical" etc. do largely remain current. (For instance, basketball still has "technical fouls.") However, the first thing we think of when someone says "technology" is probably far more specific today, and it involves some kind of mechanical or electronic device. (Or perhaps that's due to my own specific location?)

  16. I am clearly influenced by ocularcentrism when I state that perceiving self via the visual image is "literal." Let's consider this for a moment: We perceive ourselves directly via all the sensory modes: We can hear, touch, smell, taste ourselves... even see (parts of) ourselves, all without the aid of external technology. The technology of reflection, however, lets us see ourselves — at least in some physical sense — both as others see us, and as an entirety.[17] (The issue of geometric reflection could long be solved with two mirrors; one does not need photographic technology for that.)

  17. We can already hear ourselves in our entirety (in some sense, anyway), without external technology, although many people do report the impression that e.g. their voice sounds much different to them when reproduced (externally) via technology.

  18. The mirror, as a specific object of technology, is only a development of reflective surfaces in general, canonically water: The latter was the means by which the mythological Narcissus was able to fetishize his own image. (One could claim that contemporary photography, etc. is only a further development of the mirror.)

  19. I am astonished by the success of the selfie, by which I don't mean so much the act of taking a photo of oneself, but the concept. How many people, unsolicited, but knowing my interest in words, remarked that "selfie" was added to the dictionary? How many advertising campaigns feature selfies? And I don't mean only ads for smartphones or photographic technology, far from it: There were billboard ads for Mini Cooper which had a picture of the car & the only text was "Selfie." I think seeing that, at least a year ago, was the precise point at which I was astonished, and things have only progressed since then. People wear t-shirts that simply say "selfie."

  20. One can now buy "selfie sticks" to use with one's smartphone to get a better picture of one's self. I have yet to see this used in public, but per [19], that will probably happen soon. (And indeed it happened between writing that line and editing this section: I saw one being used on the Golden Gate Bridge, while I rode past on the bus from Sonoma County.)

  21. Technologies of the self more broadly, by enabling capitalist governmentality per se, have been very profitable. That's in an indirect sense, however. (This is not the first time that people are paying, quite handsomely, for self-discipline. The current products are rather automated, though.)

  22. The prototypical technology producing this article includes my computer where I type & store it, and the internet where I will share it.

  23. I sometimes think that writing this sort of thing is a horrible idea. I guess the horror passes, because I get back to doing it. (What else am I going to do, I ask myself.)

  24. I try to avoid doing things that give me an ego rush. (Apparently this does not extend to refraining from writing a series of sentences beginning with "I," but the possible futility of battling neoliberalism, and fundamentalism more broadly, does balance that a bit.) This attempt is, in a rather queer sense, an attempt at technological mediation.

  25. The Technologies of the Self anthology makes just this argument, centered on Rousseau, as the first (modern European, anyway) person to attempt to describe his own individual quirks.

  26. Traits were cultivated (or simply claimed) according to ideals.

  27. The sorts of descriptions that would come to be applied to ordinary people are also rather different from the kinds of "traits" applied to heroes. (In other words, what was Hercules' dental hygiene like?)

  28. Foucault's archeology, as so many in Western philosophy more broadly, rests entirely on European history.

  29. Descola frames world anthropology according to four basic modes concerning the mind (or self, perhaps, in Western terms) & the physical world: Totemism means the mind & world is all the same (at least within our group); animism means the mind is the same, but the physicality differs; analogism means that minds & worlds all have various differences; and, naturalism means that the world is the same, but minds are different. According to this framework, Europe moved from analogism (which is typical of the big "civilizations") to naturalism during the modern era. Hopefully I've summarized this reasonably well, but I am being very brief.

  30. Adorno locates (at least symbolically) the origin of European individuality with Odysseus.

  31. Analogic world systems tend to be very elaborate. (In that sense, naturalism was a simplification.)

  32. Writing about the body — a figure problematized by e.g. Butler — thus invokes both collectivity & conquest.

  33. The term "locus of control" is part of e.g. early childhood education pedagogy. The idea is deeply embedded.

  34. We often perceive incorrectly, due to various "internal" forces of control, i.e. discipline & governmentality.

  35. As figured by much contemporary writing, we engage in this dialog with "the other." (I have repeated this notion often here.)

  36. Note that much of this development is historical: It was not the condition of people forever; it can be traced to particular circumstances, etc. (It's helpful to have some grasp of just how unusual some of our attitudes are, maybe not here & now, but in various times & places.)

  37. Per the previous section, investments are not necessarily localized in or by the (conscious) self: They do figure it via relation, per [3], however.

  38. Someone with a more encyclopedic sense of presentation is welcome to attempt just such a comprehensive survey. I'm sure it would be interesting.

  39. Indeed, my family worked in construction & farming, not coincidentally: My grandfather said that he chose these fields, after the Great Depression & World War II, because of their "necessity" quality. We made more money in construction, although there was always farming happening. (Sometimes we grew food only to eat ourselves, sometimes to sell.) Many, or perhaps still most, of my non-nuclear family make their livings in construction. When it comes to clothing, analogous to these other technologies, I learned how to sew, knit, embroider, etc. However, that was never commercial, and we never produced our own fibers. (One can thus perceive the success of landmark marketing by the National Retail Dry Goods Association from the first decades of the twentieth century, and indeed I don't believe that family members make their own clothes at all anymore.) Nonetheless, these technologies of necessity were always recited as a trinity.

  40. Food, clothing & shelter are embroiled in rather different politics. Of these, the middle term is the least contentious here & now, although it was critical to the early industrial revolution, and its contemporary politics of labor in poorer countries means that its ills are often removed from sight (here). Meanwhile, homelessness is an ascending problem that can be observed locally on a daily basis. The politics of food is very much in a state of flux, both related to distribution (international versus local, for instance) & production (chemical, genetic modification, immigrant labor, etc.). These food issues are also very prominent locally [41], at least via discussion & packaging (i.e. not necessarily visible directly). Some of this politics can be summarized by the ability to locate clothing manufacture in other countries, and the fight to do so with food. Meanwhile, housing politics are embroiled in local land politics, as well as the necessity of domestic construction labor. This is, again, a very brief summary.

  41. Food politics, especially as regards transporting food elsewhere in the world, are especially tense in California right now, due to the drought. Sending food elsewhere can be figured as sending water elsewhere. (That said, we also have bottled water companies that literally send water elsewhere, including expanding during the drought.)

  42. We can trace such changes & non-changes over various time frames, across different locations, etc.

  43. I am not simply invoking peer pressure. Rather, what other people are willing to buy in the market strongly conditions our own available options. (I certainly do not mean to say that it determines anything or everything. Taking this statement to an extreme, which is common in neoliberal rhetoric, is a means of obscuring power, i.e. an excuse.)

  44. Food, clothing & shelter also have their clear disciplinary components, i.e. both what is legal in these areas, as well as what is sanctioned by public opinion more broadly. (Peer pressure, as alluded in [43], is an explicit disciplinary regime. To it, I might oppose the queer, and in turn, homonormativity.) Legality includes both proscription & requirement. (People might even be force-fed in some circumstances, although eating is not typically required by law.) For instance, wearing fur might be socially proscribed, but foregoing clothing in public is illegal. Homelessness becomes effectively illegal in many jurisdictions too.

  45. These technology companies are subjugating the economy as a whole, and much else in turn, via the neoliberal (fundamentalist) logic of profit as the supreme good.

  46. As I've already remarked, neoliberalism craves speed.

  47. Cases do get decided, however, but we get the sense that the speed of law is not nearly as fast as the speed of e.g. smartphone technology. The law seems perpetually behind.[48] (Perhaps such "behindness" defines the postmodern age more clearly than does any "end.")

  48. Note that law is another technology that forges the self (as alluded already in [44]).

  49. I can define "runaway" specifically in this context: It's technology created for the purpose of profit, and no other purpose. In other words, some of us might have been accustomed to having problems that need solving, and then finding solutions. Much of today's technology is, as the saying goes, "a solution in search of a problem." This isn't quite true, though, because the problem is "not enough profit" — and there's never enough.

  50. Consequently, people are constantly generating new technology narratives. This includes a wide range of people, from tech company marketing executives to science fiction fans to children.

  51. Although it incorporates sound, the internet remains resolutely ocularcentric, and relies on scopic fixation for its propaganda: I have yet to have a problem using a website without sound, and the other senses remain untouched so far. (If you're blind, however, the current generation of very visual web pages is clearly not for you.)

  52. Tech companies want "diversity" now, instead of relying on their traditional pool of "talent," i.e. privileged white men & an increasing array of men from Asia. Since these companies aren't actually competent at respecting anyone, they don't do this very well, so that e.g. women don't feel welcome [53], even as companies are actively recruiting them. (My industry sources attest that such recruitment is currently very active.) Anyway, the tech companies want sufficient diversity such that their employees are familiar with all of their potential customers. It's good for sales, as well as public relations.

  53. For example, I recently saw a discussion (if you can call it that) of the idea of a feminist programming language: The original remark was straightforward enough, namely that the main programming languages & concepts were developed by men, and women would probably do some things differently. The response was an amazing outburst of sexism & outright mockery — even threats of physical violence. (I've experienced the rage of technical people myself, when I've suggested that their cherished concepts might not be universal, so I felt that I could relate to this, when a friend brought it to my attention.) There were no punishments, of course.

  54. Whereas physical, mechanical technology does use the human voice, characters on the computer screen itself are increasingly animated.[55] (The amount of movement in web advertising has increased rapidly, even in the past year.) Still images might disappear, mimicking life outside of technology: Animation thus has a double meaning here, although always intended by the technical term, and can even extend beyond the usual visual reality. (Might we call it surreal? Maybe not.) Technological blurs, for instance, can be figured as actual blurring of information.[56]

  55. I invoke what might be termed a difference in faciality (per Deleuze & Guattari) here: Many physical machines do not yet attempt to have faces, but computer "characters" do.

  56. Note that such technology (if not blurs per se) might prove broadly useful, in principle [57], but is currently owned & controlled for the sake of capitalist profit, and capitalist profit only.

  57. For instance, there is talk of more technology specifically for people with disabilities. For the moment, it's mostly talk, given the hierarchy involved.

  58. These are not what I might term "planetary non-humans," i.e. other animals and natural parts of the environment. Rather, these are machines built specifically for the profit of a small group of people.

  59. The entire notion of sympathy & compassion over the internet, versus technology in person, is difficult. It's very easy to respond to someone on a computer, while they're a thousand miles away on another computer, and grant them no sympathy or compassion whatsoever. (It is, per a philosophical discussion going back at least to Hume, a "natural" human response to have sympathy, but one might need to be physically triggered for it to apply.[60]) However, the computer entity — such as the automated supermarket checkout machine — might be physically present, speaking to you.[61,63] Hence, notions of sympathy are distorted in at least two directions.

  60. Many people also learn how to demonize other people, such as along racial or class lines, so as not to feel sympathy, even in person. (Some will be happy to tell me that I'm doing this, in turn, to their machines.)

  61. These speaking machines are not at all innocent: Studies show that people are more willing to accept manifestly unfair offers from computers than they are from other people. (They see little point in arguing with the computer.) So this is manipulation, and we should expect more of it. That these machines also try to sound human is presumably so that we do not shout at them — and personally, I have let loose more than one stream of profanity at these things [62], simply because I hope that someone is listening — and do not create a disturbance.

  62. These machines tend to be quite impatient, for instance, in keeping with the personal styles of their masters. This particularly annoys me when hurrying along is not for anyone else's benefit at all, i.e. there's no one (but the machine) waiting. (And note that we're told that we should talk to our smartphones, although I certainly do not, so what's wrong with "talking" to the auto-checker? These used to be social interactions, after all. In this case, they're very rude social interactions on the machine's part, not that I'm required to match that rudeness, but then, why am I the one making an effort? Sympathy for the machine, right?)

  63. One can figure these machines as posthuman, and perhaps they can aspire to that, but for the moment, they are tools specifically designed for profit. (My example makes this very clear: Why isn't there human labor at the checkout counter? To save money & increase profit. This is, as I have already figured it earlier in the article, an aspect of the regime of labor surplus.)

  64. The neoliberal masters of the machines do not provide human compassion themselves. Such things are figured as less important than profit, but if compassion from others yields higher profits, that's great. (This was already done with front line employees, people with no power over policy, who nonetheless had to listen to customer complaints. If customers feel bad about expressing their anger, then the profit-seeker has won.)

  65. Interfaces on a typical computer include monitor, keyboard, speakers, network connection, electrical connection, camera, microphone, CD drive, etc. (My smartphone has such things as an infrared "blaster," as well as the now-ubiquitous motion detector.) These items are indeed conceived specifically as interfaces, and in turn, are linked to various bodily interfaces.

  66. Guattari had already figured the machinic unconscious as literal. (It's a matter of what people understand a "machine" to be. Now there can be no doubt regarding whether the definition fits.)

  67. Manning & Massumi have a series called, "Technologies of Lived Abstraction," for instance. (It is, broadly, the motivation for the opening lines of the present paragraph above.)

  68. I might as well equate the ambitions of the liberal self with the delusions of the liberal self. They aren't exactly the same, but are close enough for the present purposes.

  69. Let's not forget that such technologies include food, etc. (Most people realize this, at some level, even if their vanity precludes acknowledging their dependencies.)

  70. As in [69], food is a technology that is changing rapidly. Considering that food will continue to be an essential technology, at least if there are still people (and in some sense, even if there aren't), this should be cause for concern. Subjecting something like food — or housing, also a prominent concern here — to the same logic as the internet might be a problem, per [45].

  71. We can figure repetition per se in various ways: It might be Nietzsche's eternal return, in turn figuring amor fati. It might be neurotic, yielding to paranoia or even fascism. (This is Freud's death drive.) There is an indistinction in the activity (of repetition) itself. Its affective component comes from elsewhere. Yet, repetition can & does refigure affect in turn: This is, in part, via the familiar, and affective memory.

  72. Puberty brings this change (via brain chemistry): Children are constantly perceiving, whereas adults will forego actual perception in favor of memory & learned response. (The canonical example I learned is turning on a light switch in a familiar room: An adult internalizes where the switch is, with time, and then flips it on subsequent occasions without thinking. A child actually looks for the switch every time, even if he or she knows exactly where to look, and registers it consciously. Perhaps I overstate. Note, also, that the light switch is very much a technological interface.)

  73. The modes that I identified canonically with children & adults in [72] are more generically aligned with "model-free" & "model-based" systems in studies of neuroscience (as discussed in the anthology I've listed in the bibliography): Is there a prior model for a decision?

  74. The light switch of [72] is an example of technology making rote repetition easier. However, note that e.g. pouring some oil, lighting a match, etc. can also be internalized just as mechanically. It's more steps, so it takes longer to commit to muscle memory. (Pianists commit entire sonatas to muscle memory, though.)

  75. So we can ask, when technology is being changed rapidly, what parts must be kept the same in order to keep people engaged, i.e. to keep them using internalized memories, rather than thinking? (Such a question can be answered via experiment.)

  76. I've raised this question before, but what caused Europeans to be disinhibited enough to go and do the crazy things that they did in the Americas? Early exploring parties were often quite frightened, yet they persisted — often because there was seemingly no other choice by that point. This sort of plundering, imperial attitude (with at least a hint of desperation) in turn conditions the liberal self: It was born of this kind of activity. Ordinary people now believe that using others for personal profit is totally acceptable (despite e.g. their religion, which might suggest exactly the opposite). Whence this level of disinhibition? It continues apace, becomes habitual on the level of society.

  77. I am using the term "active" to describe technology that reacts to us according to some script — often, literally, software — and perhaps even maintains communication with its maker, in order to modify its script according to later instructions. (Note that although electronic devices with software do seem like a big change in this regard, a simple tool such as a hammer could already modify our behavior, simply by responding in the way that it naturally responds.)

  78. It has long been the case that people around us during our moments of relaxation can send us messages, perhaps without even knowing it, that motivate us, including at other times. (Is that too obvious to state?)

  79. Perhaps my suggestion sounds paranoid. Or perhaps we should simply ask what kinds of things we want motivating us in our private moments. In any case, note that such totalization (as e.g. so many people watch the same television programs [80]) yields, in turn, even more focus on our own individuality. It's an oscillation of extremes, sometimes very rapid, that I've already partially figured via the notion of fashion: Such extreme individuality is a mirage that (subconsciously) attempts to "average out" to the same degree of autonomy (or so might a dialectic analysis suggest [81]).

  80. I'll note the obvious fact that it simply was not the case that millions or billions of people in earlier eras were watching the same thing at the same time, spread across thousands of miles. (A natural phenomenon such as an eclipse would be a rare exception.) I'm calling this change, where people watch the same things, totalization.

  81. This kind of "averaging" is often found in response to changes. (One common example in contemporary USA politics is the way that food technology needs undocumented immigrants, who are in turn loathed by the people who need the food: On average, they're indifferent.) If one can position oneself at particular interfaces relative to such averaging, one can then extract profit. (This is yet another difference engine, exemplified by the national border.)

  82. Although unconscious change tends to benefit someone other than ourselves, at least given the way in which our society is structured, I do not want to suggest that we really do want to be conscious of all changes. Sometimes it's simply easier to be led, without much thought. And sometimes, that turns out fine.[83]

  83. Perhaps this is the point to mention age differences again, not only in terms of the thoughts of [72], which are relevant here, but in how older & younger generations figure leadership differently. This is a political issue that I have not addressed much, but probably should have. It's a huge issue both in USA & in the world as a whole. For instance, how do or might we figure disinhibition via age? Moreover, how is one's youthful conditioning in decision-making inflected as one ages? In other words, if choice & decision are (always?) already figured via age (and isn't this what we tell children?), what actually happens as we age? (I have neglected this kind of time series almost entirely.) In turn, how are these changes to choice & decision processes inflected by technology that changes simultaneously? To me, this suggests a new kind of (maintained) disequilibrium, and indeed, keeping consumers in a child-like state is the explicit goal of much marketing.

  84. In other words, neither disinhibition nor consciousness depends on the other in a straightforward way.

  85. The self is thus figured not only by consciousness & disinhibition, but by contingency & indecision. (What technologies enact these concepts?)

  86. In this sense, the familiar itself is a relation (and usually an investment).

  87. One's "family" might be quite queer, of course.

  88. Thus family typically figures the unconscious, and this typicality is reinforced if the unconscious is figured as or by language. (We might consider how to untie this little knot.)

  89. The term "nuclear family" underlines the technological orientation (and mediation) of contemporary politics of the family.

  90. I might have said that family is a premier technology, although not the premier technology, since there is still food, etc. (One can live without family, at least sometimes, or with a queer family, etc.)

  91. There are various differing technologies for forging habits & especially inhibitions: The approach of the Christian shepherd is to direct action, whereas another technology might focus on boundaries & inhibition per se, letting children explore on their own otherwise. Care of the self might likewise be figured by the latter via knowing the self, as opposed to Christian renunciation (of self).[92] I do not intend to describe the traditional Christian position as inferior in this regard, only different: For instance, the "boundary" (negative, as typical of the bourgeois) approach enacts a container for the other, whereas the sheep (via positive direct action) might learn to find openings toward the other. The former, the liberal approach, produces a particular sort of disinhibition, scripted from afar (i.e. via boundaries), and hence yields governmentality.

  92. We can also ask: Is care or knowledge first? The latter comes via interrogating the real, requiring care, but care is also a result of knowledge. (Renouncing knowledge can thus be an aspect of accepting such circulating dependencies.)

  93. Opposing the queer subject (broadly speaking) to the liberal subject makes some sense within the current governmental regime. (Such opposition can easily yield to homonormativity etc., however.)

  94. Note, per Remède de Fortune, Part B, that family is the historical site of economy.

  95. I'll note, once again, the trope of space travel. I don't give it much credence. Put another way, even if it ends up happening, care of the planet is still important, and is certainly the way to hedge one's bets, so to speak. (Consider this to be another variation on Pascal's Wager.)

  96. Hence Deleuze's "dividual."

  97. The emergence of nanotechnology is quickly providing new ways to interact with such smallness. (I am not going to engage in speculation regarding what this might mean. There is, in other words, as I've already noted more broadly, a meaning deficit, and we should be suspicious of attempts to fill it too quickly, including our own.)

  98. Scientific knowledge of the role of microorganisms has been expanding rapidly: Now it needs to figure thought more broadly.

  99. Microbiology should thus be, literally, an aspect of perceiving self.

  100. Even absent an ecology of self, it is important to note that the environment permeates our bodies. It is not separate: We are made of its very "stuff."

  101. I have already mentioned selfies & other photography, and this trend extends to videos, etc.: People are keen to be part of the contemporary spectacle itself. Moreover, such collections are becoming so vast that they saturate one's life, meaning that it would take another lifetime to revisit one's collected memories. This is a doubling into the image, impossible for some to escape.

  102. Modern technologies assist with such preservation: Everything on the internet is recorded & preserved, if not for market research, for unknown purposes in the future. Although I've long been interested in history myself, and refer to it often here, this strikes me as a perversion of history. For one, it is non-narrative. It becomes yet another collection, something that can only be figured analytically. Moreover, such preservation is directly in service of the disciplinary regime: One's past has always been literally unmodifiable, but in practice, one could become a different person. Now? Previous acts might never be forgotten, and of course they are prioritized differentially.[103,104]

  103. Those who collect often feel that their collection gives them power — i.e. object power over what they possess. (Some people lead their sex lives in this way.) This is only true to a point, as the act of collecting can itself overwhelm us: It is a technology of self. In other words, it is prior power, e.g. of the disciplinary regime that gives the collection power, and not the reverse.

  104. Note also that preservation technology also provides the opportunity to manipulate the past, not merely via narrative (although that can be very powerful), but by changing the archive. The familiar (prior) is thus subject to direct manipulation at the level of sensation & the image. (People with a collecting mania sometimes believe that they are preventing this outcome, although with contemporary technology, collecting an object does little to prevent such changes after the fact: One might be hacked.)

  105. Does such super-saturated memory create super-saturated habits, i.e. make contemporary social change even more difficult? Note [102] already suggested that past preservation makes change difficult on the personal level, to which I might add constant reinforcement (by those around you, who remember) of behaviors you might want to change. (This is a known problem for e.g. self-help programs, so I am hardly raising a new issue.)

  106. Laruelle has described research itself as a project of forgetting. (Here I call this defamiliarizing.) He relates it to the fact that the real is not determinable by thought, and indeed we might say that prior thought can impede new perception.

  107. Marcel Duchamp has described how, in order to become "free," he had to forget how to draw, had to forget physically with his hand. (This relates to the earlier discussion of habit, and indeed disinhibition.)

  108. I have written about the relation between (artistic) creation & forgetting since at least 2002. (Here is that article, but note that I have not reread it, so I don't know what it says.) I have become fairly good at forgetting, if I must say so myself, although not always. (Remembering too much was a problem for me when I was younger. People used to say I had a photographic memory, which was never literally true, and it was probably never true in even the vague, i.e. non-visual, sense.) I do forget what I write here — although I go back & read it, at least while I'm working on the article — and so end up engaging in something of a dialog with myself.

  109. Although do note that biological systems have a weird sense of memory: I already noted (in Chapter II) that butterflies remember caterpillar memories, despite being reduced to a kind of protein goo in the interim. (And there is other evidence suggesting that at least some butterflies have memories spanning generations.) Other research has suggested that worms can acquire memories by eating other worms. (What does this mean for worms eating dead bodies, as the trope goes, generally?)

  110. Ecological reuse is another view of the "circulation" that I sometimes discuss more generally.

  111. Given the previous examples, it's tempting to say that physicality circulates more slowly than affect. However, e.g. breathing each other's air, or some hypothetical microorganic process, might well yield faster circulation.

  112. This remark about signs is a paraphrase of Lazzarato.

  113. I often gesture via the question format, as the reader has undoubtedly noticed already, but even that is too linguistic at times.

  114. Let me return to the etymology of investment, as it relates to the technology of clothing: Combining that origin with (relation via) the image suggests an "emperor's new clothes" narrative: We are all actually naked in ecological relation.

  115. I allude to investment in images specifically, and loss of investment generally.

  116. For example, consider what even a tiny dip in the stock market can do to the economy more generally.

  117. In a similar sense, disability is inherent to humanity. Yet, we often feel uncomfortable in response. (What sort of technology of self would facilitate a different response?)

  118. I am revisiting the remarks at the beginning of this section, as partially explained in [3]. In other words, we might be only techniques.

  119. In other words, per Nietzsche (as already mentioned in [71]), we need to embrace the joy of eternal return (i.e. circulation) — or, we might say, embrace fortune. (Recall that I have figured modernity as a project to mitigate or eliminate fortune.)

  120. We might figure duality as the price of self-knowledge. (To what extent do we even need to know the self? Maybe therapy isn't so much about knowing too little, but knowing too much.)

  121. That our aesthetic capacity is shrinking is an observation by Ngai. It does appear that people (at least in USA) are capable of an increasingly limited number of aesthetic responses. Most of our entertainment follows a handful of simple formulas, for instance.

  122. The rude auto-checkout machine has no aesthetic capacity at all, right? (And it is based on the binary....)

  123. Hopefully the present article functions to increase aesthetic capacity.

  124. This is a rephrasing of the opening to Laozi.

  125. Some religions, such as Christianity, have posited that the planet does indeed follow a strict plan.

  126. The rude auto-checkout machine doesn't know how to improvise, either.

  127. Must one be uninhibited in order to improvise? (This would be the majority opinion, I imagine.) Or is disinhibition more about convincing us to do horrible things that would never feel right in the moment? To some extent, this is a matter of situation: Where are we now?

  128. Improvisation is based on muscle memory (or its analogs), whether consciously or not. Hence it responds to affective circulation, etc.

  129. Although speaking of planetary ecology as being in equilibrium is a common trope, I do not subscribe to that point of view. Equilibrium implies stasis & in turn, simplification of multiplicity: Life itself violates the second law of thermodynamics by increasing complexity in a great orgy of disequilibrium.

Music as political

I've already named the familiar as the domain of criticism: One can only criticize what one knows, at least somewhat.[1] One might criticize the unfamiliar in principle, but it requires a process of familiarization in order to form a more detailed critique. Such a process of familiarization might, in turn, modify one's opinion.[2] If such an opinion — or even the process itself — intersects the social domain, it likely intersects politics in turn: Everything is political [3], and insisting on being "non-political," or not actually insisting [4], is tacit support of the status quo.[5] (I know from experience how much many people dislike being told that everything they do is political, so I will insert this pause.) In other words, actions affect other people in a variety of ways, some big & some small, and in turn inflect social relations & authority.[6] To leave authority untouched is to confirm authority. Critique of the status quo — by extension, authority [7] — is then an activity opposite to being passively (presumptively) non-political. Critique suggests an active engagement, and here we are actively engaged, but a similar process is implicit in daily choices one makes, of what to eat, what to wear, what to hear, etc.: One can move toward or away from the contemporary status quo via such choices, even without actively articulating how or why.[8] Propaganda often functions via such implicit means: We are induced to do something, and we might not know why, or even that we were induced.[9] In the first section of this Chapter, I figured propaganda & marketing via aestheticization, such that our aesthetic choices become political. Or it might be, rather, that politics (perhaps subconsciously) inflects our aesthetic choices.[10] Here the task is to discuss such aesthetic choices, whether made by creators or consumers, explicitly.[11] In other words, I want to make the politics involved explicit.

Aesthetic narrative is thus also political narrative, a series of experiences (or events [12]) perhaps chosen explicitly — by us or someone else — or perhaps occurring more randomly, but nonetheless shaped by our situation.[13] (As we have discussed extensively, we cannot really extricate ourselves from our situation, or even know clearly which is which.[14]) Aesthetics, then, not only involves such experiences [15], but narrative per se: Narrative itself has an aesthetic component. (Moreover, rhetoric has an aesthetic component, and indeed we can observe that radicalized meanings of words have become typical of contemporary political narrative.[16] Aesthetics thus functions at the level of words & definitions, as well.[17]) So political narrative can be inflected via art & aesthetics, whether at the level of experience or narrative per se. Stepping back from such a duality, we can figure art as relation (and aesthetics as interrogating such relation, which can in turn be art [18]): Art explores relations, (potentially) intersecting all of our investments & technologies.[19] (Hence the emphasis here on art.) Art does not prioritize reason, but in a very real sense, opts for whatever works: It figures & relates all such investments.[21] Avant critique, then, is about developing new art & aesthetics, specifically highlighting the unfamiliar, i.e. gesturing away from the status quo. (And such gestures might lead to further motion.[22]) So whereas the familiar tends to draw us inside itself, in turn forming conclusions, we attempt (again) to form beginnings: How might the world be different? What are some other ways to be?

One way to pursue such (political) questions is to ask what is familiar: How is the world now? Art can certainly pursue such an interrogation, while also figuring the unfamiliar.[23] Moreover, how are aesthetic narratives defined (externally, typologically [24]) & controlled? What escapes such definition & control? How is the situation of the artwork changed with familiarity? In other words, if art is about relation [25], changing its relations changes the artwork, and vice versa. Let's consider such a locus of relation more generally: Relation is an instantiation of thought itself (whether conscious or unconscious), and in turn the very "stuff" of the self. Our mental pathways are forged relationally [26], and in turn condition our future experience: We cannot simply decide to undo our previous perceptions, but they might also evolve or mutate [27] without reinforcement, or with subtly changing reinforcement.[28] (Moreover, such relations might also — or, primarily — be bodily [29], reinforced via muscle memory, etc.) Past relations might be overwhelmed by new relations — or might not be. Indeed, reinforcement for many perceptions is constant via propaganda & directed physical activity [30]: I analogize our contemporary immersion in (constructed) stimuli to drinking from a fire hose [31]: So how might the output of the hose be resignified?[32] Such a question involves the structures & relations of thought [33] & the body, but I've already figured art as relation: So how might art forge new relations? How might it figure a new world?[34,35] Such worldly relations are figured via the relations of the artwork itself, reflected in traces & gestures. Signification (or resignification) often occurs in transverse directions, and so art can be about finding such transverse spaces & motions: In short, it can move us, and (sometimes) in powerful ways.

Let's get to the stated topic, then: What about music, more specifically?[36] I don't want to spend time debating a (full) definition for music, but I do want to note that music is inherently temporal: Sounds, by their nature [37], occur in time, and music as a sequence or evolution of sounds [38] further occurs in time. (Moreover, since music requires a performance in time [39], the same music, in some sense, whether e.g. via recording or score or memory, can be played again, forming another temporal sequence.[40,41]) Music can evoke multiple times or temporalities simultaneously [42], by placing (or by being [43]) different sounds in different temporal streams. Music can also evoke multiple times via memory, i.e. inflect the past via repetition or allusion [44], i.e. via the familiar: It can even forge the familiar via its own refrain or internal narrative. (Music might include lyrics, and thus perhaps a literal narrative, or such narrative might be figurative.[45]) When it comes to the unfamiliar, and figuring new worlds, music (as a play of temporality) can generate or mediate our "affective relation toward time," i.e. "toward or away from the other.[46]" In short, music is highly relational [47], not only in relating over time(s), but in simultaneous relations between sounds (that might well be figured via time [48]). Music embraces bodily relation, not only via the physical act of performing music itself, but in its relation to movement & dance. (So one need not actually be making music in order to experience this relation.) As dance already suggests, music can also engage with the visual (and hence ocularcentrism), such as via film or other multimedia art (or advertising [49]). So whereas music can evade scopic fixation, it need not, and might even serve to intensify it. That said, all of this language of relation leaves me a bit dizzy in writing it. Let's pause: I have not wanted to circumscribe what music is, but I do want to suggest some of the various means by which it can articulate, trace, gesture, etc. Its nexus of sound is very flexible in this sense, and there are far more possibilities for relation than there have been (known) musics. Moreover, many such possibilities do not require advanced technology.[50,51]

So what of unfamiliar music? How does it figure [52] or enact motion away from the status quo? Simply playing something unfamiliar will not have such an effect by itself: It might very well chase the listener or performer away from the music (i.e. reinforce the status quo). The experiencer's [53] investments must first be engaged [54], likely via the familiar [58], before motion can be traced or gestured. Novelty in this context might mean containing the unfamiliar within the familiar [59], and thus reinforcing the status quo. Perception might also be contained typologically via the "interesting" trope or judgment: Even if such a distance is maintained, the act of (repeated) listening might induce motion nonetheless.[60] In some sense, one must engage listeners where they are, and move them to where they aren't, and this can be done iteratively, via small motion. The problem with small motion is that it can be overwhelmed by counter-motion: The fire hose of propaganda is still gushing. Hence, whereas resignification can be considered to be a small motion — as it can happen in very small (musical) spaces [61] — it will also change one's subsequent perceptions. How do we do this? I certainly cannot offer an a priori formula, as it demands situated creativity, but one might consider applying e.g. the gesture interrogations of Chapter III, yielding what might be termed process art.[62] Issues of orientation, emotion & irruption raise typology once again, in that so many listeners are invested in music of a particular type: They have a particular preference [63], and such preferences are often both overtly political [65,66], and moreover, rely on familiarity. Yet such typing or genre need not penetrate every aspect. Indeed, the genre concept itself has always been suspect, as music shares various elements — is related to other music in various ways.[67] As already alluded, such relational elements can be quite "small" & technical, whereas genre designations typically involve large-scale cultural norms.[68,69] Hence we can consider inflecting musical relation, and therefore politics, "below" the level of genre.[70]

Most people (in this culture, anyway) expect music to be tonal [71,72]. That expectation might even define "music" for them. Tonality has spanned many genres [73]: Hence, the post-war avant garde focused on atonal music, and developed dodecaphony, etc.[74,75] Although atonal music, in a variety of styles [76], has become far more popular in recent decades, tonality is still employed extensively as a mechanism to modulate feeling in commercial drama, advertising & propaganda in general. How else might we align these relations at the smallest (or "molecular") level, such that people (suddenly [77]) hear this music differently? To reiterate, a different sense of relation will yield different thinking, and perhaps different politics. In many ways, this requires experimentation.[78] (Earlier in this Chapter, I mentioned e.g. non-representational art & experiential art enacting its own trace.[79]) For instance, how might music evoke indeterminacy [80], whether regarding preposition or orientation [81], or difference per se? Another approach, in some ways opposed to dodecaphony, has been to change the sense of what a musical note or tone is.[82,83,84] Blurring or even eliminating what constitutes a "musical note" [85] is not entirely unlike other efforts to eliminate musical genre [86]: The difference is, once again, that genre is on a much "higher" plane, and thus more conducive to hierarchy.[87,88] Protest music (perhaps as a genre) — often associated with youth [89] — has typically been loud, but also subverts the musical note via noise, etc. In contrast, classical music has traditionally demanded quiet.[90,91,92] (Moreover, what of music that incorporates speech genres somehow, or otherwise engages in such explicit dialog?[93]) Such issues of social articulation are readily perceived, at least on some plane, and indeed some music seems to be weird for the sake of being weird.[94] What of music that we might be able to reference via a label [96], if not a genre? What of ecological music [97,98,99], violent music [100], queer music [102,103], non-digital music [104], even non-temporal music [105,111]? I've been focusing on the tonal quality of sound, but what of its more explicit temporal quality, often described as rhythm? Rhythm typically involves a discrete sense of musical note [112], but temporal relations of similar size & length can apply to music without a discrete tonal conception: This might bring an audible sense of number [113], with different numbers (perhaps) lending a different relational feel.[119,120] Regarding ecological relation more broadly, we might also want to consider "music" of animals [121], or non-humans more broadly.[123] In that sense, what makes music "for" people, i.e. what sort of musical relations are relevant to humanity, and what aren't?[124] Moreover, this discussion has been very much oriented toward my own cultural context: What of world music [127], and what of that world figured ecologically as beyond (but certainly including [129]) the human? This seems like a good place to end [130]: What other unfamiliar music [131] is there?

  1. Note that the familiar does not necessarily align with traditional concepts of knowledge or truth. (I hope that this is a very repetitive comment by this point.)

  2. In other words, specific criticism of the unfamiliar can be quite unstable.

  3. Recall Foucault's discussion, referenced in the previous section, of the various police functions articulated in historical France. (The terms police & politic are closely related etymologically.)

  4. Being oblivious to the situation means that your actions support some unknown person's politics.

  5. Notice how so many public discussions, e.g. online or at social functions, can continue apace as long as people continue to reinforce contemporary governmentality, even to the point of making rather extreme hierarchically inflected comments (i.e., "those people just need to stay in their place"), but as soon as someone objects to such a comment, the discussion has now become political — and therefore impolite or off-topic. I see this sequence again & again.

  6. I've paraphrased a dictionary definition of politics as regarding social relations & authority. (Moreover, note that "authority" is one of Cialdini's principles of influence, and has been studied fairly extensively.)

  7. Authority suggests someone or something responsible for the status quo. This might be true in only a vague or dispersed sense, and so I intend to drop the reference to authority from here. (I hope it was helpful for this tiny part of the exposition.)

  8. One basic question is who is profiting financially from one's choices. (Many of these people will be using some of that money for political lobbying, explicitly or implicitly....)

  9. Likewise, propagandists might not actually know why something is effective, only (empirically) that it is effective. Sometimes this is happy coincidence — but then, hierarchical thought does tend to align.

  10. Whether aesthetics causes politics or politics causes aesthetics, to put it in the most reductive terms, is not often decidable. A tight feedback loop develops, particularly in the mainstream, where it is constantly reinforced via propaganda and other stimulus.

  11. The focus of this final section will be on conscious choice, i.e. what we might actively choose to consume or create.

  12. Using "event" already suggests an excess over choice.

  13. I have been using "situation" as a technical term. (Indeed, one can figure "situating" as the act of composing or creating, in the present context. In that sense, description can be creation, in that describing is a kind of relating.)

  14. Indeed, propaganda seeks to further entangle self & situation. In other words, how can one resist the power of the status quo without being able to separate it from oneself?

  15. One can, at least in principle, ponder the aesthetic aspect of any experience (or event).

  16. Terms like "liberal" & "market," for instance, have radicalized uses common in USA politics. (Even e.g. "upgrade," from the tech industry, is now highly politicized.)

  17. Poetry, as opposed to narrative, has been the prototypical art for the aesthetics of words per se. (This is also why I frequently discuss definitions.)

  18. The locus of circulation of art with aesthetics (or philosophy more broadly) is sometimes called conceptual art.

  19. Apple's success in the tech industry can be traced to bringing the aesthetic experience explicitly into the design of technological artifacts. (This is sometimes called "user experience," and goes beyond consideration of the concrete, outcome-oriented activity [20] someone might perform with a piece of technology.)

  20. I don't necessarily agree with separating the aesthetic experience from "outcomes," but this is how people in the tech industry tended to think: Their device was for performing particular (prescribed) tasks, and anything else was secondary or superfluous. (There have been decorated tools for millennia, though, so Apple's innovation was rather specific to a context in which such things were considered superfluous. It would probably be too much of a digression to further remark on religious symbolism....)

  21. Here I figure reason & rationality as investments.

  22. The intent is certainly to induce motion, and perhaps action.

  23. I call this defamiliarizing: We can make the overly familiar, the habitual, seem unfamiliar again, leading to new perceptions & relations.

  24. For instance, typology propagates itself via familiarity: We are familiar with types, and in turn perceive via these types, etc. We then (learn to) see them everywhere, despite that they are not real. (This is a process of reification.)

  25. I am taking a rather different approach from Adorno's monad, and the emphasis on art's thingness. Here, relations are figured through the artwork, and so the latter does not mark an endpoint. (Such an approach is not really in conflict with Hiedegger's articulation of thingness: Both rely on affective circulation.)

  26. Our physical neurology consists of cells connected in networks, i.e. relations. So this is not metaphor.

  27. The language of evolution suits a description of mental pathways & their changes. (Some wry comment might apply here.)

  28. The previous section discussed such manipulation via memory & habit.

  29. Writing is more conducive to interacting with thought than with the body, so perhaps I can be forgiven for treating the body (implicitly) as secondary here.

  30. Such reinforcing physical activity might be work cleaving life, but it might also be via various other technologies of self, things around us that demand specific sorts of physical actions & interactions.

  31. This is an analogy that I first heard to illustrate starting a new job in an industry, such as tech, with a lot of details — perhaps too many — to learn. (Some industries are better at mentorship than others, in other words.)

  32. Deconstruction has been one such resignifying technology. It requires much attention to detail, however, so might be insufficient to a situation in which there are too many simultaneous stimuli. (Hence, "distant reading" as another approach.)

  33. Lyotard has opined that transforming the unconscious into discourse (a clear reference to Lacan) kills art. In other words, art is figured as being about the unconscious, with a caution about relating it in too many ways. Whereas some caution is probably warranted, per [25], I am embracing relation more generally. In other words, the success of the artwork per se is not my main concern, but rather the inflection of social relation more broadly. (In yet other words, consider an artwork that does inflect social relations, exactly as it was created to do, but is itself not considered worthwhile subsequently. Is it successful art? We might say that it has expired, or been killed, and perhaps without anyone knowing what it already did.)

  34. The current world is full of — sustained by — aestheticized propaganda already.

  35. To paraphrase Spivak, how might we create a world for what doesn't work in this one? (In her context, this is a question about people & abjection.)

  36. I thus characterize music here as a kind of art. (I don't want to invoke a typology with this remark, however.)

  37. A vibration, generally, requires a medium to vibrate & time, such that e.g. in the medium of air, a vibration compresses & expands in a time series, i.e. moment to moment. (I trust that this is clear.)

  38. Whether something is a different sound, or part of the same sound, but changed or changing, can be a significant musical question.

  39. Previously, I referred to a performance in time as a narrative performance of knowledge. (Narrative figures temporal sequence.)

  40. In other words, for example, it would make less (obvious) sense to paint the same painting again (although one might look at it again). Music, though, must be reenacted in time (performed again) in order to exist: In this sense, a score or recording is not "music" per se.

  41. Scoring music might thus be figured as diagrammatic, specifically as an attempt to illustrate (or capture?) an atemporal component of experience.

  42. I have already figured such a variety of times as a variety of potential futures, etc.

  43. Such multiple music might be multiple music literally, i.e. different things we hear simultaneously, with no (conscious) relation between the activities on the part of those making the sounds. (In other words, I do not intend to suggest a concept of music that demands conscious creation.)

  44. Allusion is, of course, a sort of artistic relation more generally.

  45. I want to be clear that music does not require actual words in order to inflect or enact a narrative structure. Also, although some music might be secondary to its lyrics, some is not, even when there are lyrics.

  46. I quote myself, from the first section of the present Chapter.

  47. Perhaps it is my own vanity that sees (or rather, hears) music as more inherently relational than other arts. I won't dwell on this point, but I do want to note this thought.

  48. In other words, although relations might be perceived as simultaneous, that perception might rely on temporal preparation of such relations. Simply sounding two notes together means little in isolation.

  49. All of these relational comments apply to advertising & propaganda too. Music is often an important aspect of these messages.

  50. As anyone involved in experimental music can attest, an amazing range of sounds can be generated from fairly simple objects, by exciting various resonances, etc. (I have discussed various examples over the past, and presumably future, months & years on my website. I don't want to single anyone out here, so please see that space for some thoughts on recent examples.)

  51. I mention technology, specifically, as related to access. In other words, anyone anywhere can experiment with many sounds & their combination.

  52. I imagine that the reader is rather weary of my use of the verb "figure" by now, for which I apologize. Whereas I am varying some language, so as not to be too tedious, there is other language that I am trying to use consistently for purposes of exposition. (In this case, it would be aesthetics doing the figuring via circulation with art, i.e music, per [18]. In other words, I am referring to conceptual relations.)

  53. I borrowed the term "experiencer" from Anthony Braxton.

  54. Absent some sort of coercion [55], and I am not focusing on coercive situations here, but rather on engaging the listener, there is no substitute for music that people [57] will actually hear by choice.

  55. Forms of coercion include playing music in places where people are there to do something else, i.e. where they will tolerate something in exchange [56] for accomplishing some other task. (Thus we hear background music in many public settings.)

  56. Perhaps I should not introduce such economic language here.

  57. The next obvious question is: How many people? The notion of transformative music with a huge audience is appealing, but increasingly unlikely, depending on the degree of transformation. As I'm sure the reader knows, most people are very conservative in their musical choices: They continue to select the same familiar things. (As an aside, the personality trait "openness," part of the Five Factor Model, correlates not only to being more willing to try new things, but specifically to enjoying more complex or reflective music.) The size of one's audience also correlates to more attention from the disciplinary regime, and thus to more attempts at resignification.

  58. Such familiarity most commonly involves the relation between sounds (e.g. tonality), but could involve more basic aspects of sound, the instruments, the performers, the setting, or even something conceptual that the listener might relate.

  59. Recall Adorno's trope of the culture industry, particularly in popular music, namely that it produces constant novelty while keeping everything (significant) the same.

  60. Although neoliberal capitalism relies on boredom to drive consumption, boredom — seeking the "interesting" — might thus be placed at the service of change. Again, though, there is the flood of reinforcing (or resignifying) stimulus.

  61. For instance, if one's mind always anticipates e.g. a specific third tone to follow a sequence of two, what of training the mind to expect something different? (This is very basic thought.)

  62. Music seems particularly suited (pace [47]) to process art because of its temporal character. It already traces a process.

  63. I find that when I have a set of related music to hear & evaluate — and note that although such a set is related in some fashion, whether by the same performer, or the same (minor [64]) style, it is still rather arbitrary — I have a strong urge to pick a favorite. There is no actual need to do this, but the tendency is there, and I try to resist it. (I can pick more than one or none, for instance. Or I can seek to expand the set first.) Once a choice is made, there is a second tendency to reinforce it: Investment in my own competence leads me to insist (if only to myself) that my choice is really a favorite (if not, for some people, "the best"). In other words, choices are induced by finite sets, which themselves might be carefully selected by someone else, and then reinforced by investment in competence.

  64. I use "minor" here, largely, in the minoritarian sense — although the more reductive judgment might sometimes apply.

  65. Some people would describe their preference in this area as "non-political," and refer to (some) other genres as being "political," and hence suspect. (See [4] & [5].)

  66. Many music genres are sustained by marketing, of course. (The typological concept of genre fits marketing very well.)

  67. Even the mainstream understands the "fusion" & "crossover" concepts, for instance, although these are typically limited to involving two or three discrete genres.

  68. Per the Deleuzian language of [64], genre defines a molar property, whereas we can consider molecular relations. (I can also figure this duality, in somewhat similar fashion, as equilibrium & disequilibrium, the latter driving us toward the unfamiliar. In other words, molecular motion resists equilibrium: The concept does not apply there, but only at larger scales.)

  69. Large scale cultural norms are sustained by propaganda, of course, including as discrete entities, just as discrete genres are sustained by marketing (per [66]). Indeed, many norms & genres were created entirely by marketing or propaganda, and added to the "official" choice set analogous to that of [63], at which point, people happily choose them. This latter sort of self-sustaining activity is quite a coup (for those enacting norms & genres).

  70. We can also consider musical relation "above" the level of genre, and this is a tempting approach for anyone who understands how arbitrary genre can be. However, it's possible to inflect people's categories from within, per [68], and this will be my focus for what follows. (The latter is the less dangerous approach, because it does not reinforce hierarchy. The former can lead easily to a battle over authority per se.)

  71. By tonal, here I mean using Western tonic-dominant (perhaps incorporating seventh chords, etc.) harmony, as well as the diatonic scale. (In this sense, medieval music was not tonal.)

  72. As is frequently noted, people seem to accept atonal music in film soundtracks. Hence, the genre of film music (with its relations to drama, ocularcentrism, etc.) has inflected atonal (or avant garde) music more generally. This is not necessarily a problem, but it does suggest extra-musical means to reinforce the status quo, even for "unfamiliar" music.

  73. Presumptively, tonality has spanned all genres (at least in European-derived music).

  74. I already discussed tonal hierarchy, and how it reflects hierarchy per se, in Hierarchy as rupture, Part VII

  75. Note that dodecaphony was a discrete & systematic — hence, reflective of structuralism — approach to abandoning tonality. In other words, it not only involves being atonal per se, but specifically undermining the relations of tonal hierarchy, while also retaining its discrete character. (One argument was that at least the former was necessary, or else such relations would return unconsciously.)

  76. Of course, not all styles have become popular, far from it, but e.g. film music (per [72]) & more broadly popular styles such as rap have brought atonal music to the public.

  77. In other words, the familiar might be defamiliarized, and this tends to happen fairly suddenly, or at unexpected moments.

  78. In some ways, relations between equality & difference (reflecting such a politics) are paradoxical, and thus require experiment & experience: Subject formation itself is far more experimental, for every person, than is usually acknowledged.

  79. So how might music enact its own trace, by which I mean simultaneously indicate (perhaps in another register) what its relations are? In some sense, music is more about bare relation than some arts, and so it might more readily coincide in this sense. (There are also likely a number of possibilities that I am not anticipating.) Non-representational music, i.e. music that does not signify something else, has already become common. Note that music-as-relation does not (inherently) signify something external, even if I have figured (molecular) relation as affecting or inflecting patterns of thought more broadly: This is a technology of self, not a representation.

  80. "Chance" or aleatoric music, as pioneered by John Cage and others, has become part of the contemporary music scene. Likewise, improvisation itself provides another sense of indeterminacy: Even if it uses standard tones & tropes, it is not (fully) predetermined.

  81. Contemporary music has also attempted to enact the freedom not to express, via silence, etc. (This might be figured, according to some contemporary political concerns, as a refusal of documentation. You may not know me!) This is another orientation.

  82. Scelsi was a pioneer in this regard. It seems to me that such an approach to microtonality continues to have much potential, and indeed I've found that Scelsi's music tends to be very disorienting for mainstream listeners.

  83. Note that jazz performers, particularly saxophone players (and vocalists, of course), are known for their personal "tone," i.e. not so much the notes they play, but the various ("small") elements of timbre & articulation that inflect individual notes. (This is true of early jazz history as well, and one can hear such slurs etc. sometimes become notes proper, i.e. designated as such, over the course of historical developments.)

  84. That a musical note or tone is what it has been in European classical music is, in part, a matter of simplicity & technology: They are conducive to written notation, and in turn, straightforward to play on e.g. piano.

  85. By this remark on reconstituting musical notes, I do not mean whether a note is "musical," but rather what makes it a (distinct) "note" at all.

  86. Popular music, not to mention more experimental or improvisational styles, is constantly trying to subvert genre. However, notions such as "alternative" become mainstream genres themselves rather quickly. (This is, once again, an issue of typology, and in turn, recapitulating typology.)

  87. Deleuze & Guattari extensively discuss how their concept of molar relation is readily conditioned by hierarchy, whereas their concept of molecular relation might subvert it.

  88. Genre is also constituted by social concerns beyond the relations between musical notes. Although it can be about the latter, at least to some degree, the former is often inseparable from genre. In other words, relations at the smallest level of sound can more easily inflect such social concerns, rather than the reverse, simply because such "molecular" relations are difficult to circumscribe, per [87]. In yet other words, transverse motion often occurs more readily between concepts of different "size," rather than related on the same plane, as are genre & social concern.

  89. Is it true that disaffected teens tend to be more attracted to music than other media? (This may have been a technical artifact of a particular era.)

  90. A quiet ambience does allow for more dynamic contrast in sounds, and thus the possibility of more relative intensity. (Such a contrast might also be figured as embracing contradiction.) So one task is to enact such possibility within the sonic milieu of people's real lives — such a concern relates directly to our immersion in stimulus (the fire hose) generally.

  91. I have struggled with issues around quiet, personally, specifically concerning whether music fits with my often noisy environment. Some styles simply aren't conducive, and I suppose, the struggle is that I continue to (at least reflexively) want to hear such inappropriate styles. (In other words, perhaps the noise itself is more authentic.)

  92. Classical demands for quiet appreciation bring to mind Sloterdijk's comments on spheres & wombs.

  93. Enunciative genres might engage "speech" in a variety of ways, and not necessarily linguistically. (For instance, they might include bird song.) One can then explore how enunciation per se interacts with relation more broadly. Employing the human voice non-linguistically, as an "instrument," might invoke such an interrogation, perhaps including inaudible phonemes, etc.

  94. My intent is not simply to be weird, but as stated, to effect different relations. The results might overlap considerably, though, particularly when experimentation is involved. In other words, is "weirdness" [95] enacted technically?

  95. Of course, we figure "weirdness" here as unfamiliarity. The question is then one of affect, and how far it moves us.

  96. By label, rather than genre, I intend to consider some relational issues raised already in this article, and therefore named or labeled. Such words or names can suggest genre in a mainstream sense, but I would prefer to consider how they might penetrate music — regardless of genre — more generally at the technical level. (Any such distinction will be, at best, unstable, as naming will tend to form "molar" qualities & thus hierarchy. I know no alternative in the present written context, but in the performance of sound itself....)

  97. I note "ecological" music in part because of my earlier discussion oriented on ecology specifically, but also because "environmental music" has some history at this point: Music from the environment, particularly animal music, such as whale or bird songs, has become an entire genre. So we can hear soundscapes from nature without going outdoors, and the music will probably be contextualized for people, meaning in terms of its duration & packaging, as well as the way "highlights" are selected. I believe that this sort of music does sometimes give people different perspectives on the world around them, although it can be easy to fetishize such sounds, and also that the more technical differences in sonic relations are rarely emphasized. In other words, as per my "soundscape" characterization, such music is treated at a distance, as one might a painting (i.e. landscape).

  98. Ecological music can be viewed as a sort of process music (per [62]), as sonic (or musical) processes interact over time, perhaps forming combinations that reinforce or disrupt each other, recycle components, etc. This sort of music has become relatively common in the very broad field of "electronic music," where mathematical processes of this sort can easily be engaged. (Think of "fractal" art as a partial visual analog. Note that this might be presented as a video, with current technology, and so illustrate process via the temporal component.) Such processes, e.g. of outputs becoming inputs, can also be invoked non-mathematically.

  99. "Ecological music" might signify anything that gets us thinking more ecologically, in very broad terms, including regarding self-formation. In that sense, it seems impossible to circumscribe the possibilities.

  100. I already touched on the notion of an aesthetics of violence (in the second section of this Chapter), and this notion does warrant further consideration. For instance, we might engage process music (once again) to enact more peaceful musical relations out of an initial violent outburst. (One might also want to consider, more specifically, the way the aesthetic functions in e.g. violent sports or movies. The latter tend to be rather formulaic, figuring violence in a particular narrative way. The former might actually provide a richer sense of drama.) Such a process can easily become trite, particularly if enacted at the level of large-scale musical elements (dissonance, loudness) in a straightforward way, so we might want to involve smaller-scale musical relations, in order to dissipate violence somehow, not only in the moment, but via habitual mental relations.[101]

  101. This all sounds very manipulative, which it undoubtedly is, but I do want to note explicitly that the disciplinary regime engages in exactly such manipulation, but to glorify violence — up to a point anyway. (The regime thrives on the "right" amount of violence.)

  102. Stereotypical "queer music" (at least for gay white men, who seem to monopolize much of queer aesthetics) is, of course, show tunes. Whereas gay appropriation of such tunes (which typically, but not always, originate elsewhere) might refigure social relations, or at least gender in mainstream society, it also reinscribes such relations within the same society. In other words, although show tunes might reconfigure "belonging," they do not even attempt to reconfigure society more broadly. So what is another sense of queer music? At its broadest, queer music might be anything sufficiently strange or unfamiliar (per [94]), but more specifically, could indicate a difference in relation per se. (Perhaps I should emphasize that queer indicates a difference in relations, if only sexual relations.) Much of what I've discussed would be "queer music" in this sense. Perhaps there are other, yet more specific, possibilities.

  103. Although some readers might (appropriately) question the degree to which the label actually overlaps with queer, I do want to consider the notion of BDSM music specifically. "Process" within BDSM scenes could be figured musically, including e.g. consent. Moreover, BDSM music might serve to reconfigure the relations of aesthetic violence (per [100]). I've found show tunes (albeit with more rock & roll than some venues) blasted on stage at e.g. the Folsom Street Fair to seem rather incongruous, but then, that's my own perspective. (Some people might say that incongruity is the point, but I certainly don't view it as the end.) I'd like to have control of the musical selections there for a little while some year, if only as an experiment.

  104. Digital music is literal these days in the sense of how music is stored on computers, CDs, etc. Some people, in turn, laud the old vinyl systems & their "sound." I've long considered vinyl to be too inconvenient, but maybe there is more to this, especially as vinyl seems to be ascending (relatively speaking) right now, than the sort of "retro" politics I imagine. In any case, what does digital storage really mean for contemporary music? We might want to think of it as analogous to a score, in some sense, and obviously there is more detail captured on a digital recording than in a score. Is more detail always what we want? I think the answer to that is obviously, "No." However, even at a similar level of detail, how else might music be "transcribed?" Moreover, when it comes to e.g. electronic music, how else might it be generated? How might one come to hear the discrete binary character of the digital medium? (And I don't mean by contrasting it with the so-called "warmth" of vinyl. This assessment seems highly reductive, and reflects record engineering trends more broadly.) How might digitization be interrogated in sound? There would appear to be many possibilities.

  105. I've actually encountered many descriptions of specific music saying that it attempts to obliterate temporality, etc. Such things are usually done via looping, feedback, resonance, etc. These are, more broadly, sorts of repetition, and do inflect time back on itself. However, at least more traditional forms of rhythmic manipulation of time do not obliterate temporality in any sense I'd consider the notion, but rather the linearity of time per se. Rearranging the (presumptive) linearity of time is a powerful aspect of some music.[106] Such linearity can also be distended via musical consideration of duration per se [108], which we might consider more generally to be an aspect of figuring "size" via art.[109] Denying temporality, in these & other ways, can often be figured as interrogating temporality, and such interrogation might be made audible for the listener.[110]

  106. Note, moreover, how the rearrangement, or construction, of nonlinear time can contrast or conflict with the "process music" idea, at least as commonly employed. The latter assumes a linear time as background, meaning that time is not rearranged, with processes that then play out over its course.[107] These notions can surely be combined.

  107. Computer algorithms, much more broadly than those used in music, might be interrogated for their sense of time, and particularly of temporal horizon. E.g. the stratifying machine of the contemporary risk regime (as discussed in Remède de Fortune) assumes a perpetual horizon (i.e. runs without end). How might such processes plan for their own ends? Such a horizon might be figured musically.

  108. Morton Feldman is known for his use of "duration" as a musical element, and indeed his music rewards attention both to its details as well as to its unfolding as a whole (which is sometimes figured visually as a tapestry). These two "size" regimes are linked, but also separated, technically.

  109. For example, there are sculptures that are too large (relative to their environment) to be perceived at one time. One must look at them from different perspectives, from which they might seem very different.

  110. More broadly, figuration (partially to rephrase [52]) in art & music often functions as interrogation. In other words, it need not be a statement, but rather a question. (Such a distinction can easily disappear with time, however, even for the same artwork. Canonization tends to replace questions with statements, for instance.) Indeed, it might be neither statement nor question, but simply relation or provisional relation. How is such a relation related in turn?

  111. Note that improvisation, as already discussed (in e.g. [80]), presents a different relation to temporality than attempting to play a specific piece (however that might be figured) of music in a prescribed way: Improvisation is specifically an opening toward future possibility. Improvising is always as if for the first time? (Or perhaps it might be.)

  112. A discrete sense of note, and therefore rhythm, is (at least in part) a reflection of music's relation to dance: Many dances have traditionally engaged the limbs of the body in specific, discrete sequences. We can consider a more "continuous" sense of bodily movement, however.

  113. The sense of number derived from music can be figured via numerology [114], but also via the commodity counting of industrial production. It is not a coincidence that the European music of the early modern period (usually called "Baroque" today) involved a heightened sense of counting. Music of this period innovated the bar line as a way to measure rhythm [117], and brought the repetitive beats of dance music [118] into music more broadly. It thus forged the "busy" quality for which it is still known: Everyone in their place, working.

  114. The Baroque (at least as exemplified by a famous composer such as Bach) is known for its numerological obsession. Whereas such numerology is often figured today as entirely symbolic, numbers & rhythms do correspond both to physical actions & relations of thought: Dialectics itself can be figured as a 1-2-3 sense of relation.[115] We might ask, in turn, how to generate a sense of difference via e.g. generating more & new numbers (in some indeterminate, musical sense), and of course, how repetition can be figured as other than industrial repetition.[116]

  115. It is too easy to claim that everything with a "three," a very common number, must refer to the same thing symbolically, usually the trinity in this context. So caution is warranted.

  116. The natural world offers many examples of repetition (or refrain), so such figuration is not actually obscure or difficult: One simply needs to encounter repetition in a different situation, and with different nuances of timing.

  117. "Measured rhythm" more literally refers to the earlier mensural style, where notes did have measured (relative) durations, but where rhythm was not tied to a regular beat overall, and certainly not in every part of polyphonic textures.

  118. Per [112], the specific dances motivating the creation of bar lines involved discrete notes & movements of entire limbs. Note that such types of movement also function as e.g. military marches. Such dancing & rhythm thus teaches the body (at a deep, affective level) in particular, repetitive ways. (Henry Ford, for instance, took quite an interest in dancing in the early twentieth century, as part of scripting everything about the lives of his workers.)

  119. The shift from triple time to double time as rhythmic standard actually prefigured the modern period, and that shift produced a rather different feel from (earlier) medieval music. The latter, oriented on triple time as its typical basis, has a feel to which modern listeners do not necessarily relate readily. Although it's easy to relate triple time to the trinity, such a reductionist view (per [115]) neglects this relational (rhythmic) feel: I sometimes figure it according to shared attention, which is a rather different notion from transcendence.

  120. I've seen it asserted that double & triple times, and their derivatives, such as in fours or sixes, are the only "human" rhythms, such that e.g. rhythm in fives or sevens is figured as "impossible." (Examples around the world more than suggest otherwise, and I have not encountered this line of argument recently.) Hence, it does not take extensive changes to number to change the relational feel of music for many people.

  121. Besides the insect examples I've already mentioned [122], studies of musical modulation in mammals, including monkeys & cats, have also appeared. Whereas human music does not appear to interest these animals, the composition of sounds related to their own environment & communication has an effect. (We might want to ask if these animals "enjoy" being manipulated in this way.) However, such an effect has not been observed in all mammals, or even all primates, suggesting that it is social relations per se which determine an interest in music, rather than other (i.e. genetic) sorts of biological closeness to humans. (Perhaps this validates my emphasis on relation here, or at least underlines it.)

  122. Beyond my mentions of butterflies & worms, note that e.g. gamelan music has been shown to modulate the behavior of insects in its environment. It is thus a kind of ecological (or environmental, in a sense different from that figured in [97]) music.

  123. Plant reactions have also been figured musically, with so-called "screaming grass" being a canonical example. (Such signals do not occur within the normal human sensory range, but are heard by e.g. insects.)

  124. The explicit question of what sort of musical relations are inappropriate to humanity might yield some interesting answers. It's easy to answer with music that is beyond the human perceptual apparatus, but how far beyond? There is also music of sufficient intensity to destroy the human sensory apparatus, but again, how much destruction? (Some people seem to enjoy a bit of destruction.[125]) But what else? To further paraphrase the remark from [35], where is the world for what doesn't work, in this sense? What is its feel? (Perhaps thoughts from [98] & [99] offer part of an answer, although I believe that there is much more to such an inquiry.[126])

  125. Beyond loud rock music, which has many fans, music that actually destroys the human sensory apparatus — or other tangible things — also figures the aesthetic of violence that I've been trying to interrogate here.

  126. For instance, musical instruments are usually figured as being suitable for human operation. What other sorts of "instruments" might there be? (Computers & what I've termed "planetary others" immediately come to mind as two other possible "operators.")

  127. "World music" can be quite problematic as a concept (much like "world literature"[128]). It can easily come to name a vague genre that lacks any real connection to actual people or specific cultures. The reverse, however that might be named, might then suggest a type of disciplinary reification of cultural categories that can never relate, and so is also problematic. We need a zone of indistinction, in this sense, that e.g. "fusion" (suggesting preexisting discrete categories, as it does) rarely, if ever, captures. It becomes, once again, about relation from the middle, rather than establishing poles. (What is familiar?)

  128. Music is often figured as a "more general" language, in this sense. Whereas there might be a grain of truth to this notion, it also suggests that music is created & perceived non-contextually, i.e. that one need not share the "language" of the other musician, in any sense. Problems with such notions seem clear: For instance, we start to perceive everything at a distance, as an image, fetishized. (This sort of conversation seems more advanced as applied to written literature, but still without an answer — which might be for the best.)

  129. I remind the reader, for the final time here, of the dangers of simply augmenting the subject, rather than transforming it. (Moreover, perhaps I should not be so certain that the human will continue to be included in the world.)

  130. I spent almost exactly eight months actively writing this article, although the preparation extended (explicitly) to years earlier. Thus, finishing it will change my daily focus, and I'm excited to do something else.

  131. Quite likely with too much vanity, I refer the reader once again to my own series of discussions of at least some examples of "unfamiliar music" today. (And I'll note here that the present article originated from those discussions: Just how do these musical examples figure familiarity, whether of something specific, or per se? As we have seen here, there are many possible ways....)

Bibliography

Please see a bibliography for this series, if you so desire. I made a separate page for it. Indexing (of the present article) is superseded by the computer (browser) search function.

Todd M. McComb
27 May 2015