Anticipatory politics

8 years before Barnett wondered whether Thrift wanted to pursue a political project in his notion of affect, here he is, arguing for a political project of the notion of affect (in the affirmative):

This ‘politics of the half-second delay’ has the potential to expand the bio-political domain, to make it more than just the site of investment by the state or investments by transnational capitalism. It may well explain the deep affective investments that are made by so many in a politics of nature, investments which move far beyond the cognitive and which are often figured as a restitution of all that has been lost. Perhaps…the outcome might be figured more accurately as new appreciations and anticipations of spaces of embodiment, best understood as a form of magic dependent upon new musics of stillness and silence able to be discovered in a world of movement.

Taken from his 2000 paper, ‘Still life in nearly present time: the object of nature’ in Body and Society. The abstract is available here, but I can’t find a freely downloadable version I’m afraid.

Political Affects in Public Space II

I said I’d return to make a few comments on the Barnett (2008) paper I read yesterday (direct link to that post here). He understands the Thriftian notion of affect in two registers and calls up a number of problems:

1. under the critical vision of the politics of affect.

Are all affectual outcomes bad? Because that’s what Barnett thinks Thrift gets at for a large part. If affect matters politically it’s because ‘it opens up new surfaces for the exercise of manipulation’ (198). But Barnett says that excitement, joy, fear, compulsion, shame etc. ‘have no a priori political valence at all’ (198) and as such can’t be deemed bad per se. It’s a process of interpreting the outcomes from these affects that have the political dimension. Thrift needs to consider this in order to qualify this dimension.


2. under the affirmative vision of the politics of affect.

The spaces of affect can be progressively appropriated in order to realise new ‘configurations of feelings’ (198). But why is Thrift making these somewhat covert attempts to open up political regimes of affect? Surely their value only comes from the kinds of political projects that are ongoing and are directed to anyway (’emotional liberty’, ‘ethos of engagement’ 198)? Thrift needs to engage with these political dimensions outright if he wants to make a project of the spaces of affect. Although something tells me that’s not what he wants to do. But Barnett says if that is what Thrift intends, then he has to clarify the implications of it for democratic principles (liberty, free-speech etc.), and for the people who should be participating in this process of commanding the spaces of affect (i.e. every single citizen).