Affective Politics: A Sovereign Way of Cultivating and "Caring of the Self"

By Aryal, Yubraj | Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Affective Politics: A Sovereign Way of Cultivating and "Caring of the Self"


Aryal, Yubraj, Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry


Introduction

The question I want to raise here is the following: what form of politics supports an active and sovereign way of cultivating and caring of the self that would not simply be an instantiation of political power but is capable of becoming part of collective organizations without being overpowered by these collectives? It is in this light that I want to show how an affective politics gives us the potential for new subjectivities and new kinds of politics. In my attempt, I am taking a detour to discover the nonsubjective subjectivity beyond the mechanisms of power in order to speak of "a subject of practices" of the body that stimulates the active understanding of the sovereign way of cultivating and caring of the self. The new sense of politics that I am exploring here is not an effect of the discursive power relations, which Michel Foucault in his earlier career would advocate for, but it is the fundamental affective force in the emergence of new subjectless subjectivities. The new dimension of politics and its affective relations to subjective emergence are not a cultural relation of power and knowledge but of creative emergence of the self. They refer to the openness to body, openness to participation in self-stylization of body and the self.

Affective Politics

The affective politics questions a kind of politics with a misleading conception of human beings according to which they are inherently political (mutually agreed to form a consensus for living) and easily capable of articulating their interests rationally to reach to a common goal in life. The traditionalist notion of politics assumes human beings agreed to live together rationally on certain common interests. But affective politics, a new sense of being political or doing politics, adds up another distinct ethos in the human beings according to which they are expected to participate in a creation of new, opening up genuinely new ways of thinking, feeling and action in life. This is what I mean by affective politics. Human beings do not just live together more or less rationally in a given political structure and create shared thoughts, feelings and actions but are capable of creating entirely new values within and beyond the given politics. Certainly becoming a subject is something one cannot do on one's own; it is an intensely social process of shared values. Politics forms our becomings and reciprocally our becomings shape the becoming of politics. The co-dependability of our subjective becoming and becoming sociality is at the heart of the affective politics. So when we study an account of politics, we need to analyse how subjective becoming interfaces with social becoming. What sort of affective process--to affect and to be affected--as an engagement with the world is involved in creating a "communicative consensus" upon people's mutual goals and interests?

The new modes of thinking, feeling and action occur not at the level of power relations but at the level of the body. Bodily drives first give birth to political power relations. So affective politics focuses unconscious physical processes (creative movements), which are neither analogous to, nor representative, of the power relations to which they give rise. In other words, affective politics as an alternative politics deals with how particular discourses of power relations, for say, class, gender, race etc., emerge into being as an affective force; how that process becomes political (creation of novelty) binding our individuality with social politics. The discourse of power relations is neither personal nor biological; it is a set of affective forces compounded in us from outside and inside of life. (1) So, politics exists at the level of force, not at the level of representation of ideology and power. Politics is not interpreting the given in the form of the personal or biological, but creating a space for the newer impulse, newer compounds of forces "yet to come.

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