Massumi, Brian. “A Doing Done Through Me,” The Power at the End of the Economy

Massumi, Brian. The Power at the End of the Economy. Durham and London, Duke University Press, 2015.

To remember:

  • It is the act of choice that is autonomous, in the dissociative dimension of the dividual [individual absorbed in its relation to itself] … Choice spills from the readiness potential of the subject’s affective blind spot, nonconsciously. This nonconscious level is nonpersonal (19).
  • Decision happens: affectively-systemically, in the nonconscious processual autonomous zone where mutually exclusive states come together. The event decides, as it happens (20).
  • At the decisive moment, self is no more in a state of determinate activity than it is in a cognitive state. It is absorbed in a readiness potential that is intensely overdetermined, holding … ‘a whole range of possible differences’ in ‘sub-threshold latency’ (Luhman 1979, 73). The nonconscious ‘sub-threshold latency,’ churning with the intensity of a mutually exclusive range of potentials, in co-motional intensity, deserves a name of it’s own: bare intensity (20).
  • [self-] is not a substantive. It connotes return. It is a movement … What comes in, becomes out. The plane of immanence of the infra-individual is, at the limit, all-enveloping, and all emitting. It is the self-relation, in this double movement, of the field of life to itself (20).
  • [Intuition]: a choice that makes itself … decision that wells up from a state of unknowing, yet still produces knowledge, in effect … an act that has intense personal resonance, but of which it cannot be said that ‘I’ felt it coming in full cognizance. A doing done more through me, self-relating, than by my I. That eventfully brings a creative moment to life in a way that is also world-changing (21).
  • As human capital, the individual’s self-management … must become a creative art of choice. Correlatively, the personal art of choice must become corporate, in keeping with the entanglement between levels (22).
  • the opposition between the rational and irrational is no longer sustainable, if it ever was … they must be seen as co-operating modes of activity that separate out under certain circumstances, no sooner to reconverge, feeding back and forward into each other with all the restlessness of bare activity (33).
  • What if the problem is less the individual’s affective inability to control its ‘impulses,’ or even the conditioning of its actions by others, than the fact that freedom of choice is imposed … participants were called upon to judge (33).
  • The dividual infra-complexity of life can be backgrounded, but it cannot be entirely diffused or denied. Its tendency os to reassert itself, across its silencing. The dividual rises, sometimes all the more insistently the more it is sidelined (33).
  • The fact that rational choice works best where it matters least indicates that rationality only effectively separates our under carefully controlled conditions where the ambit of life is reduced. It assumed, and demands, the reduction of vitality, a limiting of life’s amplitude … rationality is a limitative mode of power. Reason is an antiontopower (34).
  • Choosing antiontopower over ontopower is clearly not itself a rational choice … Enter the zone of indistinction again: rationality is a desiring tendency … it is as much a mode of affectivity as … affectivity is rational (35).
  • A politics of dividualism would:
    • affirm complexity, and the oscillatory autonomies of decision that come with it … find ways of tending tendencies, in order to navigate the zone of indistinction between choice and nonchoice (35)
    • operate in the unquantifiable currency of intensity, as opposed to satisfaction (35)
    • draw on the positive creative power of fabulation incumbent in perception, tending not only to tendencies dividually churning at the end of the economy, but also to their situational openness and cross-scale sensitivities (35)
    • be a directly qualitative, relational, and situational politics (35)
    • seriously experiment with the notion that freedom is impersonal (36)
    • involve care and sensitivity–care for the event of encounter, sensitivity to the dividual-transindividual complexity (36)
  • Control society does not mold, it modulates. A modulation is ‘like a self-deforming molding that is continually changing from one moment to the next, or like a sieve whose mesh varies from point to point’ (Deleuze 1995, 178) (40).
  • The discussion of deliberation-without-attention and choice blindness added an essential dimention to this portrait of the neoliberal field of machinic life: … punctual mechanisms of modulation can intervene at the nodal point where tendential infra-individual complexity of the dividual and the transindividual complexity intersect–where the subject of interest experiences its I, in a conscious registering of the force of the movements passing through it (40).
  • At the microlevel, priming works positively to induce emergent effects through cueing (or the lack thereof). Situational cues implant presuppositions and activate dividual tendencies (41).
  • The leveraging of effect by priming is inciting and orienting, rather than disciplining and punishing. It is inductive, a ‘positive’ power [Foucault].
  • All factors, including conscious cogitation, are cofactors in what always amounts to an exercise of processual autonomy producing complexly correlated subjective and systemic effects (41).
  • What the tripping action of intuition demonstrates is that control’s modulation itself can be modulated … its movement of becoming can be inflected … A situational splash of activity can add to and alter the wave pattern (42)
  • It is not that rational operations are absent from this [intuitive] level. It is that they are performed in the forming of perception (43)
  • [intuition]:
    • is embodied thinking-feeling in movement (45)
    • is intense involvement in a highly conditioned, nonoptional event (45)
    • does not have an object. It has a fielding (45)
    • is the act of perceptual judgement (45)
  • The autonomy of decision that expressed itself in your action-path effectively has a will. More precisely, it is a will … Here, affective involvement is the functional equivalent of will. Affectivity and will are in a zone of indistinction (46).
  • The ‘rational’ aspects of the event … were mutually included in the event along with all the other co-operating factors [:] perceptual judgement, abductively thought-felt hypothesis: tendential auto-evaluation. Decision inseperable from the embodied fact of movement … But it is in fact more an event complexion: a complex of cocomposing factors, including one we may recognize as rational (47).
  • Reason has no motivating force … its rational calculations could go on forever. Reason ruminates, in a way that can never fully digest itself … is the functional equivalent of doubt … haunted by its own version of the ‘stopping problem’ … something [has to] cut into the rumination, to cut it off. Calculatio interruptus. This is the feat of affect (47-8).
  • Given reason’s constitutional inability to expunge doubt, any structure of rationality that does not build doubt into its edifice will end up crumbling … Better to build it in constructively than attempt to disavow it. This strategic openness to doubt constitutes the liberalism to structures of rationality (49).
  • Laboratory life is a ‘mangle of practice’–a site of complex ‘intertwinements’ among a plurality of active factors (Pickering 1995, 23). The ‘mangle’ is irreducibly rational. Active factors mutually ‘capture’ each other in an emergent ‘reciprocal tuning’ … Every rational structure is rationalizing (50).
  • [Michael Strevens on the central role of ‘physical intuitions’ in scientific discovery:] Probabilities are difficult to handle intuitively in general [abstract]. However, in the singularity of embodied situations … our understandings of the regularity of causal relationships, as ingrained in our body’s sensorimotor habits, kicks in … It results from a co-operation of the sense modes, at the core of which in many situations is an effective fusion of vision and proprioception, with sound a close second in terms of its superpositional trigger happiness (51-2).
  • When we catch [a] Frisbee, in spite of the incalculable complexity of its chance-inflected flight path, what we have done is effectively perceive chance. Strevens calls this ‘tychomancy’ (the divining of chance).
  • structures of rationality live by what escapes them. They feed on affective-relational intuition. What positive power they possess is extracted from perceptual judgement and abduction. Rationalities are apparatuses of capture of affectivity …not unlike a collective structure of emotion (53).
  • in the heat of an event, potential is coined. It is invented, not as an independent variable extracted from the event: as an immanent point-modulation of the integral field (54).
  • freedom is not chosen; it is invented … in a way that is not easily distinguishable from a discovery (54).

To consume:

  • Luhman, Niklas. 1979. Trust and Power. New York: Wiley.
  • Deleuze, Gilles. 1995. “Postscript on the Society of Control.” In Negotiations. Trans. Martin Joughin. New York: Columbia University Press, 177-182.
  • Pickering, Andrew. 1995. The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Strevens, Michael. Trychomancy: Inferring Probability from Causal Structure. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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