Wednesday, May 9, 2007

expressive politics

My question is about how one can define, or understand, the latent, and also looming "political situation" that compels the need for extreme abstraction--what are the characterisitics of this political? I am thinking of an article that I read recently, which was published after the Virginia Tech shootings. The article draws a connection between the 33 people who lost their lives at Virginia Tech and the 230 people who lost their lives on that same day in Iraq. The article makes a distinction between the "instrumental" violence of American forces in Iraq and the "expressive" violence of Seung-Hui Cho, which is described as useless and as irrational. The article's insight is that the instrumental violence of Iraq might actually be, at this point, "expressive" violence. In this account, the political situation can be understood as one that has devolved into mere "expressiveness." I am suggesting that this might be one way of understanding the "depression" and the "exceptionality" of our current political situation, one which would call for the type of abstraction that you have described. On the other hand, what the article does not talk about or is not able to talk about is the idea that the Iraq war was only ever, in its mode of instrumentality, expressive violence--a violence and a politics that relies upon--and more pointedly, exploits--the consitutive confusion of instrumentality and expressivity. The "depressing" effect of the political situation in this account could be that expressivity is something that is masked by instrumentality, or to return to your work, that attraction and affect, in their negative and positive forms, is not seen to bear on the instrumental or useful purposes delimited by politics. In this case, it is the very elision of "expressivity" (or the epistemological) that is so troubling, because it seems that we would not want to or be able to talk about the instrumentality of Cho's act, and on the other hand about the expressivity of Bush's.

3 comments:

RT said...

I really like the idea of thinking about the blurring of this line, and the expressivity of institutional violence.

Violence that looks (and even is) merely expressive could also be political. This is one thing I thought while watching Bus 174, the Brazilian documentary about a cracked-out street kid who hijacks a bus and who, as the camera gets close enough to hear him, turns out to have in part a political agenda of retaliation for a police massacre of homeless teenagers. I.e. he saw himself as acting on behalf of someone. I wondered how much crime is actually political, and we don't know because the verbal rationales of criminals aren't circulated.

albane said...

thank you for posing the question of the relationship, frontier or line within the individual and the community as they perform acts of instrumental and expressive violence. insane that either could actually be somewhat justified or lessened in an attempt to understand. what is the greater good?

albane said...

i liked the discussion on the porch :-)