Academic journal article Borderlands

Virtuality and Resistance: Situating the Manifesto between Command and Political Metamorphosis

Academic journal article Borderlands

Virtuality and Resistance: Situating the Manifesto between Command and Political Metamorphosis

Article excerpt

What I explore in this paper is the relationship shared between space, temporality, and virtuality as it comes to bear on a particular genre of revolutionary expression: the manifesto. My argument is in opposition to thinkers like Naomi Klein who have asserted the virtual power of the internet and social media to be the end of the manifesto genre; a claim that in our contemporary moment follows a line of argument in which the obsolescence of the manifesto is thought to be a result of extant revolutionary potential in virtual outlets like Twitter or Facebook (1). Here, I argue in favor of a metamorphosis where the genre is concerned and where revolutionary expression is evolving. I am interested in thinking a politics of the manifesto that exceeds its own instrumentality. Indeed, I think the manifesto is not only indicative of an evolution in radical politics, but a primary site of its reconfiguration. Consequently, the manifesto is treated here as a provocation toward thinking the shape and character of a fundamental shift in the operation and organization of radical politics.

Contemporary scholarship on the manifesto spans both disciplinary and political spectrums; its history and use has been documented and analyzed in literary, art historical, and philosophical fields, and its potential for future political organization has been theorized in both leftist and conservative heritages. But alongside the widespread use of new media in recent popular movements against state power and capitalist sovereignty, the manifesto's place in revolutionary organization and action takes on a new role. Here, I argue that the radical potential of the manifesto is actively theorized in our contemporary moment through its virtual capacities--specifically, as a mode of spatio-temporal reconfiguration focused in the present, rather than as a program prophesying or determining the future of resistance. To make a claim to the manifesto's so-called virtual characteristics and capacities is to ground my argument in a speculative mode of inquiry. It means reviewing, surveying, and developing a critical potential inherent to the genre, but one that is perhaps not immediately identifiable. To this end, I offer theoretical variations on the genre itself and look to a series of manifestos that challenge its generic determination.

The virtual is deployed here in a Deleuzian sense--I am intent on considering the manifesto's extant potential or inherent power for rethinking political possibility. What this focus demands is thus a means of parsing out the relation between political writing and action, or, the impact of manifesto's generic determinations in political discourse. Indeed, this is precisely the problematic through which theorizing the manifesto's virtual capacities appears. Therefore, the trajectory of this paper presents two, interrelated problems at its outset. First, what specifically is the manifesto's relation to political action? Second, on what basis can the genre be ascribed virtual capacity or potential? In its most traditional theorizations, the manifesto is a form of political writing that calls forth a subject of resistance and provides a path for its realization. The genre is, in the very circumstances of its production, a mode of political articulation and orientation. Virtuality, or what I am calling the manifesto's virtual capacities, refers specifically to the avenues of potential that undergird its political orientation and articulation. In this sense, the politics of the genre are not a question of left or right, but posed as processes of reinventing and re-framing our present spatio-temporal distributions, and even further, the content of our subjective determinations.

In a discussion of Vladimir Lenin's 'On Slogans', Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari explore this kind of inherent potential explicitly, claiming that political writing and action share a relation that is at once grounded in the real, but also prefigurative of our individual and collective relations. …

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