The Affective Turn: Political Economy, Biomedia and Bodies

… many of the critics and theorists who turned to affect often focused on the circuit from affect to emotion, ending up with subjectively felt states of emotion – a return to the subject as the subject of emotion.  I want to turn attention instead to those critics and theorists who, indebted to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Baruch Spinoza and Henri Bergson, conceptualize affect as pre-individual bodily forces augmenting or diminishing a body’s capacity to act and who critically engage those technologies that are making it possible to grasp and to manipulate the imperceptible dynamism of affect. I want to argue that focusing on affect – without following the circuit from affect to subjectively felt emotional states – makes clear how the turn to affect is a harbinger of and a discursive accompaniment to the forging of a new body, what I am calling the biomediated body.

In pointing to the devastating potential of biopolitical racism at the post-biological threshold, it is important to remember, however, that a threshold is indeterminate. It is the limit point beyond which there will have been change irreducible to causes. To elaborate the political economy of the biomediated body is not to determine the political economic as the cause of the biomediated body or its potential. It is rather to offer a back-formed analysis of the conditions of possibility of arriving at this threshold – which will help to move thinking about political economy from a prior back forming analysis and set the stage for strategizing about what is to be done. While the political gain expected by the affective turn – its openness, emergence and creativity – is already the object of capitalist capture, as capital shifts to accumulate in the domain of affect and deploys racism to produce an economy to realize this accumulation, it is important to remember the virtual at the threshold. Beyond it, always a chance for something else, unexpected, new.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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