martes, abril 07, 2009

Jon Beasley-Murray Posthegemony.

Beasley-Murray, Jon. Posthegemony. Univ of Minnesota Press. Forthcoming.

Chapter 3, 4 and Conclusions.

General Ideas.

Jon’s book is above all a political intervention: praxis of immanence. He is not just proposing a new theoretical approach to politics, history and constitute power, he is (like the authors he relies on: Deleuze and Guattari, Hardt and Negri) intervening and situating himself in a stream of actions and bodies (and theories about actions and bodies). In many ways this is not an attempt to reconfigure the mode politics is conceived. Jon’s aim is to politicize politics or what we mean (and assume) by politics in this late form of capitalism and within social sciences. His main question is: how a politics from/by/of the multitude would be? In a similar line with the Argentinean anthropologist Jose Luis Grosso, who thinks in semiopraxis not as the discourse about the bodies but of the bodies, I think Jon is trying to pursue, with his diverse weaponry (affect, habits, multitude), a politics of the here-now, a politics of hope (my view of hope rely on Havel’s ideas that hope is not situated in the future but in the present, it is not wishful thinking but active engagement with the potentialities of the here-now), and ultimately a politics of the unexpected.

If "hegemony" is “at best unhelpful, at worst ‘bullshit’” as Jon said in his blog, is because it works covering the bodies-contact, bodies-contiguous, affects and habits of the multitude. It seems clear that Jon likes to confront and oppose many notions that have became commonsensical in social sciences (hegemony, civil society, coercion, terror, consensus, sovereignty, social contract, etc), and he is doing that not only to criticize and destroy them (or to test them) but also to logically and argumentatively (very often convincingly) build the praxis of posthegemony. I think here resides the strength of his argument. Hegemony above all is a theory (of the state, of power, of domination of bodies), whereas posthegemony has not have any other option: it can only be praxis.

I do see a clear use of affect in chapter 3 as a powerful tool, first, to think through violence, terror/ism, the state, and the non-state, and, second, to put posthegemony at work in phenomena that may have been read very differently 5 or 10 years ago. If this had been a chapter on a book on hegemony it would have focused on coercion. But it is not and I really like Jon’s uses of a variety of elements, notions and stories that in his view are completely transformed when thinking through a posthegemonic lens. The problem we have now is that a variety of apparatuses are constraining the capacity of social action at the here-now (or immanent) level: the state portrays itself as transcendent (the same with the norm, politics, and even social science theory; in many ways “hegemony,” as a theory, has hegemonized social science thinking and blockaded other forms of social actions within and without social science –this is nothing new what I am saying here). (I thinkn with all the hype about affect nowadays within the northamerican (and others) academia, this chapter on affect is really good to situate the discussion and to show how an analysis of affect may work when conducted with precission and when putting meaning and representation in their proper places).

I think that one thing that Jon has efficiently overcame is the tendency in English speaking scholars to get trapped by the incapacity in English to separate power from potency like the terms conatus would imply. We sometimes tend to consider power and potency as equals when they are not. So here is one of the (many) strength of Jon’s analysis putting affect (be it terror, terrorism, violence) at work. He clearly shows that affect in itself can say much; affect can be put at work for state propose (like in Ronald Reagan’s case) or to other proposes. The point here is that the politics of affect has to be rethought with a different approach. It cannot (and it could not) be thought with hegemonic terms.

But, there is always a but, something that I still can’t get is how to conjugate affect + habit. For instance JL Grosso would say that “habitus,” in Bourdieu’s terms, would be closer to a discourse about the bodies and not of the bodies, although Bourdieu’s view is critical still has an objectifying perspective over the bodies (because the only one that can produce a socioanalysis in this case seems to be Bourdieu himself). It is true that there are many Bourdieu (with the great thinkers we always have these discrepancies, there are many Marx, many Foucault, and so on) and some have read him in a more structural (and even functionalist) way and others, like Jon, with an immanent lens (beyond the reductionism of both “agency” and “structure”). For Jon habitus is “an attitude of the body”.

One tension I see here is the usual tension between descriptive/analytical forces and normative/proposal forces. Jon is riding both, at the same time, but with an eye open to the contingency and unexpected. The here-now immanent, contiguous, bodies-politics of whatever we may want to call, what Jon calls the multitude is the original source of everything. Everything starts and finishes (although never started and will never finish) from the multitude. To tackle what’s going on at that level (and how to affect and be affected by) is an urgent task.

Of course, when one has an ambitious aim like in this case Jon has, when one wants to dethrone a reigning paradigm (like in Kuhn’s terms) the forces against would overpass the forces in favor of this proposed “new paradigm.” Is it a new paradigm Jon? What do you want to do with this posthegemony praxis? Is posthegemony “yours” or is it only the recognition of an absent, of a missing part in the political machinery of the social sciences academia? How would Bourdieu, Hardt and Negri, and Deleuze and Guattari think of your uses of “their” notions in a different context, for different proposes, and through a different recombination of elements? Do you think that posthegemony can read, understand, filter, sift everthing at the political and bodies-experience levels or do you think that it can work well in certain fields?

I need to go back and read again the chapters (and the whole book) because I think is a piece of good work, a fresh and innovative look to stuff that we have been thinking and discussing but we somehow felt not really happy with our thoughts. I wish this book will be read by many scholars, activists, bus drivers, union workers, artists, disabled people, etc; many many bodies should read it.

After thoughts: It seems that each case (affect-guerrilla, habit-Chile post-Pinochet, Argentina-cultural studies, etc) works very tightly, but what could happen if Jon recombine these elements in a different way, say: affect-Chile, habit-guerrilla, civil society-multitude? Would them still work under a posthegemonic praxis-analysis? For instance the negation of individuality in the guerrilla Salvadorena is very interesting but what else can we say about habit in terror/ism? Or about affect in post-Pinochet Chile?

No hay comentarios.: