Academic journal article Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry

Beyond the "Techniques of Domination:" Affect, Capitalism and Resistance

Academic journal article Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry

Beyond the "Techniques of Domination:" Affect, Capitalism and Resistance

Article excerpt

(Yubraj Aryal interviewed Brain Massumi on "Beyond the 'Techniques of Domination:' Affect, Capitalism and Resistance." Mr. Aryal focused his questions on the affective model of resistance against the capitalist power of domination and control.)

Y. A.: Why do you think that "affect" is more important for understanding how power operates in capitalism today, rather than concepts such as ideology and class? Are we living in a "post-ideological" society, or a "society after ideology"? What is the fate of the ideology today?


B. M. : To speak of a post-ideological society is to posit implicitly that society was effectively structured by ideology previously. This focuses the discussion on a negative claim: that a rupture has occurred. To support that claim, the received description of what one is claiming has been left must be taken as a starting point. The entire discussion remains framed in terms of the concept it is calling into question. Deleuze and Guattari do not refer to society after ideology. They make a much more radical claim: "There is no ideology, and there never was." This is not the conclusion of their argument, but the beginning. What they are saying with this provocation is that the entire problem must be reframed, from start to finish. The conceptual strands that were bound together into the notion of ideology must be untied, and their connection to each other reproblematized. In the process, the presuppositions informing that construction must be reexamined.

In very broad strokes, the basic presuppositions informing the notion of ideology are that society is a structure, and that mechanisms of power defend and reproduce that structure. The structure is an organized whole composed of parts that have specifiable functions and occupy determinate positions within the whole. The relations among the parts have a coherence dictated by the structure of the whole they compose and whose general interests they serve. The coherence of the composition is a certain form of rationality, expressible as a set of mutually cohering propositions-in short, reflected in a structure of ideas. The task of the notion of ideology is to explain a thorny problem that then arises. Namely, that what is in the "general interest" of the structure will never coincide with the specific interests of many of the subordinated working parts. It is likely, however, to coincide quite nicely with one of society's parts, or a small set of them, occupying a linch-pin position. The "general interest" is really a "dominant interest." Now if the structure embodies a rationality expressible in a coherent structure of ideas, why is it that the subordinated parts-call them "classes"-accept their place? Why can't they see how the rationality coheres, and what it really means for them? Why don't they get the idea? Why can't they see through the mirage of the "general" interest, and understand it for what it is-a euphemism for the interests of a dominating class?

This is where affect enters the picture for ideological analysis. The structure of ideas must be inculcated without making it explicit. The reigning rationality must be transmitted, but occulted, hidden, distorted. To do this, it must pass through another medium: it must be translated onto an affective register. The dominated classes must be induced to mistake their own interests for the mirage of the "general" interest-and do so with passion. They must be duped into affectively investing in the mechanisms of power that oppress them, without ever noticing the contradiction. They must become the willing instruments of their own domination. This is most efficiently done by weaving ways of feeling and acting that are in consonance with the power structure of society into the habitual fabric of everyday life, where they go on working unexamined. Ideology works best when its structure of ideas is lived-acted out in the everyday, without being thought out (as in Bourdieu's "habitus"). …

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