Theorists have devoted more interest to questions of “the virtual” recently. This is due, in part, to growing familiarity with the scientific concepts necessary to its interrogation, as well as the philosophical writings of Gilles Deleuze and those of philosophers he has resurrected, such as Spinoza and Bergson. But this interest is also the result of growing dissatisfaction with current theoretical approaches that rely on “top-down” methods unable to effectively account for the emergence or mutation of systems. Manuel DeLanda, for instance, has referred in his writing to oversimplifications that attribute causes to posited systems such as “late capitalism” without describing the causal interaction of their parts, which would change in different contexts. In his introduction to Parables for the Virtual, Brian Massumi argues that cultural theory’s over-reliance on ideological accounts of subject-formation and coding has resulted in “gridlock,” as the processes that produce subjects disappear in critiques that position bodies on a grid of oppositions (male-female, gay-straight, etc.). In one of his more exceptional examples, Massumi argues that Ronald Reagan’s success as the “Great Communicator” was not due to his mastery of image-based politics to hypnotize an unwitting public. The opposite was the case. Reagan’s halting speech and jerky movements were the source of his power, the infinite interruptions in his delivery so many moments of indeterminacy or virtual potential that were later made determinate by specific receiving apparatuses, such as families and churches. In short, interactions among non-ideological parts produced ideological power. Critiques that consider only the ends of ideology are unable to examine the very processes that create constraining subject-formations in the first place.
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