Levi has another fine post, and I left some comments there, but I will add to this and repeat what I said there….
Levi said: “I think maybe because I’m keenly aware of political and ethical psychology. Here the issue is not so much about the correctness of ethical and political positions, but rather in how our ethical and political zeal affectively transforms how we experience ourselves and the world.”
I had to reread this a few times and let it register completely. The heart of your notions center on zeal and affectivity: the psychology of the political as you state. I kept returning to what Hardt and Negri in The Affective Turn were talking about in how the realm of causality enters us through afftctitivity, how “our power to affect the world around us and our power to be affected by it, along with the relationship between these two powers.”
Thinking back on the early abuses of such power to affect and be affected as we understand it through propaganda systems from reading of such strange notions as Edward Bernays Propaganda influenced our own politicians to use the media and other systems to enter WWWI, which in turn influenced Joseph Goebbels and the theatrics of fascism we see how both zeal and affectivity – what we can term the power of rhetoric and sophism – to sway peoples emotions and thereby their very passions, rather than to touch their minds with truth. I’ve always felt leary of passion and affectivity within the political.
Bernays influenced Wilson with such notions of affectivity stating that the rhetoric of any political program should align affectivity and zeal, and that the emotional content must: (a) coincide in every way with the broad basic plans of the campaign and all its minor details; (b) be adapted to the many groups of the public at which it is to be aimed; and (c) conform to the media of the distribution of ideas.
– from Edward Bernays. Propaganda
Listen to Goebbels: “How could we have overcome them had we not waged an educational campaign for years that persuaded people of their weaknesses, harms and disadvantages? Their final elimination was only the result of what the people had already realized. Our propaganda weakened these parties. Based on that, they could be eliminated by a legal act.”
Goebbels, Joseph (2009-05-31). Goebbels on the Power of Propaganda
As Chomsky tells us, “It is also necessary to whip up the population in support of foreign adventures. Usually the population is pacifist, just like they were during the First World War. The public sees no reason to get involved in foreign adventures, killing, and torture. So you have to whip them up. And to whip them up you have to frighten them. Bernays himself had an important achievement in this respect. He was the person who ran the public relations campaign for the United Fruit Company in 1954, when the United States moved in to overthrow the capitalist-democratic government of Guatemala and installed a murderous death-squad society, which remains that way to the present day with constant infusions of U.S. aid to prevent in more than empty form democratic deviations.
– Noam Chomsky. Media Control, Second Edition: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda
Affectivity and zeal are our enemies not our friends. The abuse of passion and emotions have led to human engagements that have always left us full of fear and madness and death. I would rather teach people how to counter such affectivity rather than persuade them to use those tools to promote what Bernays and Goebbels entailed.
Levi asks in the end: “My real question, however, is that of how we might avoid this loathsome ethical and political psychology that causes so much destruction, conflict, and horror in the world. If we are to envision a politics, what kind of politics might we imagine based on building rather than critique, and what sort of politics might we imagine based on joy and love rather than resentment, faux superiority, and teeth gnashing? We desperately need critique, but above all we need composition or building.”
More than anything we need to teach people how to think for themselves; give them the tools to know the difference that makes a difference. If we can teach them how not to be influenced by such things as propaganda, how to understand when it is being used, and how to effectively counter it with truth rather than affects then we might at least have a chance. And, I agree that we do need a positive program, we need to teach people ways of constructing models of change through composition or building.
It seems that we waver among ourselves within the philosophical and political community, we have no focus, no models of any type, no rallying point: we battle among ourselves over nuances and fine points of method and application rather than building up a set of models and putting them to work. If we do this then joy and love rather than the politics of resentment will follow. We need more modeling and less bickering….
To counter arguments like Goebbels: “How could we have overcome them had we not waged an educational campaign for years that persuaded people of their weaknesses, harms and disadvantages?”
What we need is to educate people not through persuasion about their weaknesses, harms, and disadvantages; what we need is to help them overcome these weaknesses, harms, and disadvantages by providing them the necessary tools to rise above such obstacles. We need to teach them that they are not alone, cut off, abandoned; but that they belong to a wider network and communal vision of empowerment for each other, a caring network based on partnership and togetherness rather than on solitude and freedom. For too long this isolated ideology of fate and freedom that has provided the core of most democracies must be overcome through the empowerment of the multitude working together in unison to build and compose a future that is viable for both us and all the creatures of our planetary habitat.
We do not need new “models of freedom”, instead we need new “models of togetherness and sociality”.
If privacy and private property are the foundations of republics, then what would a new model of togetherness and social property entail? Can we return to the old style communisms? The twentieth century shows us that at least the Marxian turn in this form or model led to forms of tyranny and enslavement. If we turn to such writers and Slavoj Zizek, Alain Badiou, Hardt and Negri, Agamben: do they offer anything viable toward the rehabilitation of this notion of Communism for our time? Or could we shape a new model out of the creative destruction of these older systems of failure? How to begin? We need open dialogue and communal efforts and engagements. The time of the isolated individual is over, now comes the time of collaboration and change…
It is only through the efforts of a mutltitude that such models of change can come about. We see the fragements of a vision scattered across the filaments of the internet, small pockets of resistance here and there; and, yet, we do not see a rallying point, a site or place of interaction where the multitudes themselves can have a say. Oh yes, there are many individual voices, but there is no gathering place, an agora or public gathering site where both Intellectuals and the Multitude can come together and commune and build together this model of the future. We need a modern Agora, a public site that brings together the great and the small, that offers empowerment to all who seek to understand what must be done…. to make a difference that is a difference.
Only through relationship and engagement can we begin the process of healing necessary to overcome the politics of failure that has for too long kept us back from inventing new models of change and participation, both egalitarian and democratic. The key elements in such a model would entail a more democratic and egalitarian structure in both the family and governance systems; equal partnership beween women and men; and realignment of laws to eliminate the abuse and violence at the heart of most State based models of governance.
Economics and gender would need to be at the forefront of such engagements. Also as Levi R. Bryant in his Questions for Flat Ethics reminds us: “While almost no one, in the humanities, would claim that humans are somehow more real than other entities, nor that humans are somehow sovereigns of all other entities, there seems to nonetheless be a treatment of humans as sovereigns at the level of our theoretical practice.” (Warning: pdf download) We must overcome the anthropocentrism that binds us to ideologies of control and domination, and replace them with non-ideological systems of caring and partnership. With these two factors of a true engagement based on partnership and equality for both women and non-humans we see the beginnings of a model.
As Levi explains it a “flat ethics would be one that contests this human privilege, extending the scope of ethics beyond the human and how we should use other things for ourselves, developing operations that would have ethical regard for nonhumans…” And, I would extend it by saying that we would contest male privelege as well; for at the center of all present systems of governance, it is male privelege and power that need to be contested, along with our priveleging of the “human” over “non-human”. Male privlege and exceptionalism have over centuries brought about these notions of human soverignty as centered in humanistic ideology and philosophy. To overcome such systems we need to renegotiate the contractual agreements at the heart of our democratic and/or other systems and redefine a model that is inclusive of both women and non-humans.
Even our notions of subjectivity must be challenged. As Rosi Braidotti reminds us there is little time or space left of nostalgia. That the Deleuzian nomads, the multitudes of feminist-operated becoming-woman of women, Irigaray’s woman as not-one, Haraway’s cyborgs, and Cixous’s new Medusa have become in the eyes of conservative ideology and thought monstrous, hybrid, scary diviants. She goes on to ask: “What if what was at fault here, however, were the very social imaginary that can only register changes of this magnitude on the panic-stricken moralistic register of deviancy? What if these unprogrammed others were forms of subjectivity that have simply shrugged off the shadow of binary logic and negativity and simply moved on?” (RB 262-263)1
Yet, as Nicklas Luhmann once remarked we must now assume a universality of selection criteria and “constraints, the universality of differentiation and boundary drawing. Reason that refuses to acknowledge this is not far from totalitarian, if not terroist, logic.(Theory of Society: Vol 1)” To refuse such selective criteria and constraints is to spin ourselves utopias beyond both human and non-human flights of fancy. Instead we need an ethics of engagement that clarifies and centers us in a material world of becoming and process, one that offers hope for change and a true egalitarian society free of oppressive systems of law and governance.
Instead of fear, abuse, and violence we need to empower mutual respect and trust within our social polities. Instead of a hollywood reality that justifies and idealizes domination and violence, which are presented as inevitable, moral, and desirable, we need movies and stories that recognize and give high value to empathic, mutually beneficial, and caring relations, which are considered moral and desirable. We need to provide a synergistic belonging and livingness toward each other and those non-humans that extends to the planet, creating the social and environmental consciousness needed for long-range planning, sustainability, and success.
The only question is: Where to start? How to begin? How to invest in an open site, a modern version of the ancient Greek Agora, a meeting place where the multitude and intellectuals at large can network, commune, socialize, collaborate towared the creation of a more egalitarian social vision. These are the kinds of questions that interest me. That we need change is obvious, but how to get there is the problem. The first steps toward change is to speak and communicate our ideas in a open and equitable dialogue that is no longer centered on one philosophy, one politics, one ethics; instead, we need a multitude of voices to provide us a pluralistic vision of how the material cultures on this planet can actually exist and provde each other space and reason enough to build a future worth living.
1. Rosi Braidotti. metalnorphoses: towards a materialist theory of becoming. (Polity Press 2002)