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Saturday, 7 June 2014

The day-after of negativity

Been reading the very exciting Society of Tiredness of Byung Chul-Han. He diagnoses that the immunological time has been replaced by a neuronal time - a time of otherness and negativity was replaced by a time of excessive positivity, with open potentialities with scarce limitations. The contrast between the two eras - that of a disciplinary society and that of a society of achievement (or of performance) - is expressed in the prototypical diseases of the two times: in a society of discipline, borders are to be preserved - as is otherness, negativity, duties - and people go down with immunological diseases, infections of all sorts while in a society of achievement, borders spell defeat - people are rather guided by potentiality than duty, by what they can do than by what they should do - and illnesses are depression, deficit of attention, burn-out syndrome. A society of achievement - in a name that he considers fitter than Deleuze's "society of control" which is still too full of negativity - is more convenient for late capitalist production than a society of discipline (but it is not clear whether it can be expanded for the whole of the world working class or if it is a model limited to the expanded cognitariat). The abolition of negativity generates the excesses that cannot be digested - what is refused is the excessive quantity and no longer the insufficiency in quality. As a consequence, people are worn out to the point of becoming over-worked zombies, and all their faculties are all overused.

The alternative to negativity then is hangover. Without negativity there is no will limiting one's capacities. Attention is not guided by anything other than what calls it. Han holds that distributed attention is what wild animals have to have as they often hunt, look for shelter and escape from danger at all times. Concentration - vita contemplativa - is what gives rise to a world of one's own; selective attention that provides a matrix of differences and indifferences. A post-immunological, flat life, invites another ethics, not of alterity, but of refusal. Maybe these are times where there is nothing but what can be done. There is a sense in which we see that whenever there is no will, what can be done seems strikingly little.

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