Wednesday, May 9, 2007
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.