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Political Affect

Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somatic

John Protevi
Series: Posthumanities
Volume: 7
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Political Affect
    Book Description:

    Political Affect investigates the relationship between the social and the somatic: how our bodies, minds, and social settings are intricately linked. Bringing together concepts from science, philosophy, and politics, John Protevi develops a perspective he calls political physiology to indicate that subjectivity is socially conditioned and sometimes bypassed in favor of a connection of the social and the somatic, as with the politically triggered emotions of rage and panic.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7071-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xviii)

    In the most general terms, this book investigates the imbrications of the social and the somatic: how our bodies, minds, and social settings are intricately and intimately linked. I do this by bringing together concepts from science, philosophy, and politics. I call this perspective “political physiology” to indicate not only this mix of intellectual resources but also in order to indicate that subjectivity is sometimes bypassed in favor of a direct linkage of the social and the somatic. For instance, we see a direct linkage in politically triggered basic emotions, such as rage and panic, and in direct political/medical control...

  5. Part I. A Concept of Bodies Politic

    • Chapter 1 Above, Below, and Alongside the Subject
      (pp. 3-32)

      The individual as rational cognitive subject is a deep-seated presupposition of many strands of philosophy. In this picture, the subject gathers sensory information in order to learn about the features of the world; processes that information into representations of those features;¹ calculates the best course of action in the world given the relation of those represented features of the world and the desires it has (whether the subject is thought to be able to change those desires through rational deliberation or not); and then commands its body and related instruments to best realize those desires given the features of the...

    • Chapter 2 Bodies Politic
      (pp. 33-58)

      The three basic concepts of this book are bodies politic, political cognition, and political affect. They are brought together in the following formula: politically shaped and triggered affective cognition is the sense-making of bodies politic. In chapter 1 I reviewed the theoretical sources of these concepts. Here I define them and work out their interrelations.

      The concept of bodies politic is meant to capture the emergent—that is, the embodied and embedded—character of subjectivity: the production, bypassing, and surpassing of subjectivity in the imbrications of somatic and social systems. Individual bodies politic are cognitive agents that actively make sense...

  6. Part II. Bodies Politic as Organisms

    • Chapter 3 The Organism in Aristotle and Kant
      (pp. 61-88)

      The next two chapters of this book examine some aspects of the notion of bodies politic in the history of philosophy. As my guiding thread, I use Deleuze and Guattari’s enigmatic saying inA Thousand Plateaus, the organism is “the judgment of God.” They indicate by this phrase the way in which major Western philosophers have held that God’s perfection is the model for the self-ordering of the ideal, politically attuned human organism.¹ This long-standing notion, which we analyze in Aristotle, Kant, and finally Deleuze and Guattari, is the principal way in which the history of philosophy has thought of...

    • Chapter 4 The Anorganic Body in Deleuze and Guattari
      (pp. 89-112)

      After our treatment of the theo-bio-politics of the organism in Aristotle and Kant, we now turn to Deleuze and Guattari. We have seen what it means to apply the strange-sounding dictum that the organism is the “judgment of God” to canonical works in the history of philosophy. For Deleuze and Guattari, “organism” is for the most part not a biological term;¹ it is instead a term that refers to political physiology, in which somatic bodies develop patterns of affective cognition that fit them into hierarchically ordered social bodies.

      In this chapter I first trace their treatment of the organism in...

  7. Part III. Love, Rage, and Fear

    • Chapter 5 Terri Schiavo: The Somatic Body Politic
      (pp. 115-140)

      We begin our case studies with the Terri Schiavo case, which provides us with a point of intensity of the personal-level and short-term temporal scale of bodies politic. The “personal and short-term” nature of the Schiavo case is only a convenient and abstract label; we will see in the concrete case the imbrications of all compositional and temporal scales of bodies politic. In particular, we will see how the Schiavo case is a paradigm example of a restricted sense of “political physiology,” that is, the way in which government institutions are employed to control nonsubjective physiological processes. Nonetheless, it is...

    • Chapter 6 The Columbine High School Massacre: The Transverse Body Politic
      (pp. 141-162)

      We continue our series of case studies with the Columbine High School massacre of 1999. Considering it as a point of intensity of the group level and mid-term temporal scale, we will show the confluence of military techniques enabling close-range killing with freelance experiments in political physiology enabling the killers to overcome any protoempathic identification they might have felt—at least during the time of their killing spree. The ability of law enforcement and the military to kill in a planned, systematic manner is the key to sovereignty conceived as the monopoly on the legitimate use of violence in a...

    • Chapter 7 Hurricane Katrina: The Governmental Body Politic
      (pp. 163-184)

      After our investigations of intense cases of the personal and group levels and the short- and mid-term temporal scales of bodies politic, we turn now to the civic and the long-term with our study of Hurricane Katrina. In keeping with our focus on affective cognition in a social context, we will find a racialized fear on the part of government forces clashing with a protoempathic identification expressed as the communal solidarity of the people of New Orleans. The concentrated presence of many African-Americans first provoked racialized rumors and then, in response, a militarized response on the part of the government,...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 185-192)

    Is there a political philosophy implied in my theoretical work and in my treatment of the case studies? In its nominal content, we find liberal republicanism balancing individual rights and the common good, the two extremes we investigated in the Schiavo and Katrina cases, respectively. My claim to originality would be grounding those concepts in terms of affective cognition as the sense-making of bodies politic rather than in a rational cognitive subject as the political subject. Following up on our theory of political physiology, there is no single political subject, no single conceptual ground of politics. Rather, there is a...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 193-212)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-232)
  11. Publication History
    (pp. 233-234)
  12. Index
    (pp. 235-242)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 243-243)