week 6 responses

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12 thoughts on “week 6 responses

  1. Lisa Duggan’s introduction to The Twilight of Inequality: Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy spells out the transition from 1960s radical cultural politics to the rise of neoliberalism since the 1970s. Duggan defines neoliberalism as “a new vision of national and world order, a vision of competition, inequality, market ‘discipline,’ public austerity, and ‘law and order’” (Duggan x). She contextualizes this definition with a historical understanding of what the terms “liberal” and “conservative” really mean– both fall under the category of classical Liberalism, meaning that both have historically provided the necessary structures for capitalism’s free market and limited government. Duggan proceeds to break the rise of neoliberalism down into five stages that correlate to post-war 20th century America, all of which relate to what we now call “identity politics”. However, as Duggan points out, it is crucial to understand the ways in which neoliberalism works to disassociate politics from culture in their discourse, but never in practice. “The economy and the interests of business can not really be abstracted from race and gender relations, from sexuality or other cleavages in the body politic,” writes Duggan (Duggan xvi). Thus, neoliberalism hides its support of white supremacy, heteronormativity, patriarchy, and (more unsuccessfully) the upward redistribution of resources by positing issues of sex, race, and class as completely separate from “neutral” and “technological” neoliberal politics.
    Duggan then goes on to critique the “progressive left” for abandoning the downward redistribution goals of the 1960s social movements, which were also interdisciplinary in their work. The 1980s saw a move towards legality-centered social movements, “The reproductive freedom movement receded, but the National Abortion Rights Action League remained; the Civil Rights and Black Power movements disintegrated, but the NAACP persisted” (Duggan xviii). Some of these movements took up neoliberal modes of redistributing upward. In this way, opposition to the growing forces of neoliberalism have been failing.
    Michael Hardt’s forward to The Affective Turn describes this shift in the humanities and social sciences as succeeding the focus on the body presented in feminist theories and the focus on emotions presented in queer theories. Affect theory deals with both the body and the mind, and thus, the logical and emotional capacities of the person. Affects, Hardt writes, “illuminate… both our power to affect the world around us and our power to be affected by it, along with the relationship between these two powers (Hardt ix). Hardt goes on to discuss Baruch Spinoza’s work on affect theory, with the most performance studies-heavy theory that I encountered being the following, “The greater our power to be affected, he posits, the greater our power to act” (Hardt, x). However, I found Hardt’s analysis of this theory as enigmatic as the theory itself, and I’ll have to look further into what he means by this. Finally, Hardt discusses the phenomenon of affective labor, “[Affective labor] suggests new political possibilities, bringing to light new and intensified forms of exploitation that are shared among a range of laboring activities and, most important, opening up avenues for political organizing and collective practices of refusal and liberation” (Hardt xii). This was both informative and eye-opening, especially after reading Duggan’s introduction. The exploitation of affective labor is especially prolific in a neoliberal society that refuses to recognize social issues as related to economics.
    Editor Patricia Clough’s introduction to The Affective Turn outlines the essays that make up the book and argues that the affective turn in critical theory is essential to theorizing politics, economy, and culture. Clough writes, “Affective Turn especially marks the way these historical changes are indicative of the changing global processes of accumulating capital and employing labor power through the deployment of technoscience to reach beyond the limitations of the human in experimentation with the structure and organization of the human body, or what is called ‘life itself’” (Clough 3). I quote at length here because I think it is in this moment that Clough’s introduction reaches across all four articles that we read for this week– the first half relates to Duggan’s introduction, and the second half relates to David Getsy’s definition of “capacity” in Keywords and to Hella Tsaconas’ Marxist analysis of Cassil’s Cuts: A Traditional Sculpture.
    In Keywords, Getsy points out the importance of both action and passivity as they relate to the term “capacity” in that capacity can mean “‘an active power or force’ and an ‘ability to receive or maintain’” (Getsy 47). Getsy then defines “Transgender Capacity” as “the ability or the potential for making visible, bringing into experience, or knowing genders as mutable, successive, and multiple” (Getsy 47). He argues that transgender capacity can appear in most anything, no matter the genre or the time at which the thing came from. The definition for capacity itself crosses the gender line in that it is a term that can mean something more typically masculine– the active power or force, like that of the penis– and *at the same time* something more typically female– the ability to receive or maintain, like that of the vagina or the uterus.
    In “Bad math: calculating bodily capacity in Cassils’s Cuts: A Traditional Sculpture”, Hella Tsaconas explores a moment in Marx’s Gundrisse in which Marx makes an error getting caught up in calculations. “It is in these moments of failure… when capital causes its own demise (which it does by definition and with necessity) – that recommencing is made possible. Crisis, somehow, begets persistence” Tsaconas writes, reflecting the focus in Clough’s introduction on compulsive repetition and trauma (Tsaconas 2). Tsaconas makes the argument that “labor invented the body”, and posits this argument as “body-as-capacity”, that is, the body as having the capacity to produce labor (an active power or force) and as being property, and thus future money (an ability to maintain) (Tsaconas 2). Finally, Tsaconas reads Cassil’s durational performance during which they explored their body’s “maximum capacity” by body building. “Capital is required – from time to time, these occasions becoming ever more frequent – to destroy its contents in order to maintain its form,” writes Tsaconas (Tsaconas 8). The same is true with muscle– but only up to a point. This is the Marxist reading of Cassil’s performance. But Cassil’s performance had an end– a “maximum capacity”, even if the limits of the human body don’t theoretically exist. Can the same be true of capitalism, or will the constant remaking of capitalism into new forms, like neoliberalism, continually make it stronger until the end of time?

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  2. In Duggan’s introduction to The Twilight of Equality, she provides a preliminary explanation of neoliberalism and its function in American politics since the Nixonian era. Duggan lists three ploys that pro-business government politicians were able to use to force neoliberal propaganda down the American public’s throats. The three ploys are:
    “(A.) the presentation of neoliberal polices as neutral, managerial precepts for good
    government and efficient business operations, with the underlying capitalist power
    politics and cultural values obscured; (B) the opposition between U.S domestic
    conservative versus liberal politics, or Republican versus Democratic policies, with the
    overarching salience of global neoliberalism across this entire spectrum effectively
    ignored; (C) the shape-shifting array of alliances and issues through which a neoliberal
    policy agenda has been promoted in the United States and abroad” (XIII, Duggan).
    I find that this breakdown is helpful in understanding the purpose of neoliberalism and its effect on society. However, I do take issue with the following statement:
    “The Twilight of Equality? Is written as an analysis of the politics of the 1990s, and as a
    polemic for the twenty-first century, to argue that as long as the progressive-left represents and reproduces itself as divided into economic vs. cultural, universal vs. identity-based, distribution vs. recognition-oriented, local or national vs global branches, it will defeat itself” (XX, Duggan).
    I question the ability to solidify a movement when the incremental movements are not yet solidified… For example, as we know there is racism that pervades the white feminist community; similarly, there is extreme homophobia and transphobia that pervades the black community. I would argue that the division only happens because of a lack of empathy to other groups, so, the only way we can come together is if we begin to empathize with each other. I may be too hasty in my critique of Duggan’s argument, as she does not list her timeline of the repair of the left, but I do not believe that this is a quick and easy fix. It could potentially be a multi-generational apparatus shift.

    In the forward and introduction of The Affective Turn, both Hardt and Clough prepare the reader for the different essays compiled on affect theory, and they state their own relationship to it. They both speak about affect theory in terms of causality and the reciprocal dynamic of this theory. Clough delves more into the psychoanalytic dimension of affect theory, providing example as to how it works, and why it is a formidable method to examine affect in the greater society. I believe that I will be able to deepen my understanding once we externalize this discussion, as this essay is decently heady, and I have more questions about the activity of affect theory in our every day.
    In Getsy’s definition of capacity, he puts it in terms of transgender capacity, and what it means to have capacity within that definition. With Getsy’s explanation of transgender capacity, I am able to understand that capacity is broadening our definitions of the conventional and being able to operate with those definitions.
    In Tsaconas’ essay, she examines the relationship of body as capital through Marx, and discusses the performance art piece Cuts. Tsaconas brings up the power of affect on biopolitical capital in Marxist theory and on the vast expectations of body image in Cuts.

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  3. This week’s readings were a continuation of themes of the political economy, body politics, and their intersection. One idea that came up in a few of the readings was the idea of capacity. What does having a certain capacity and tolerance mean? Why should certain bodies have to undergo these extremities? In the reading Capacity by David Getsy, Getsy defines the term capacity in the following way: “A capacity is both an “active power or force” and an “ability to receive or maintain; holding power.” A capacity manifests its power as potentiality, incipience, and imminence. Only when exercised do capacities become fully apparent and they may lie in wait to be achieved” (Getsy 47). Our bodies do not fully know what they are capable of until they are forced to undergo it. There is so much strength lying within us waiting for the right moment to be used. This is evident in situations where the body is undergoing physical transformation such as with the transgender experience. Getsy writes, Transgender capacity is the ability or the potential for making visible, bringing into experience, or knowing genders as mutable, successive, and mul- tiple.”(Getsy 47). Getsy points out that the Transgender body has the capacity to do a lot of things, but most importantly it has the capacity to disrupt the binary narrative that has been constructed.

    Capacity can be interpreted as being beneficial or not depecnding on the circumstance. It can be seen as something that is a strength within a vessel, like “wow that person had the capacity to do that” or the limit of one’s power like “it was in their capacity”. E. Hella Tsaconas says this idea in a more eloquent way than I am doing so: “Capacity, invoking capability, is the potential ability to perform, or simply to do, some kind of skill or action. It also refers to the ability to receive and to contain; in common language, we frequently use capacity to refer to the maximum amount or quantity (say, of persons) that can be contained by a given object (say, a room). Yet either way we use capacity, in its active sense or in its passive sense, it is simultaneously both: note that Spinoza does not say “the capacity to affect or be affected.” (Tsaconas 7). I think they are getting at the idea that either capacity is something that you have or something that you are. Getsy writes, “[a] capacity need not be purposefully planted or embodied…and it does not need to be the result form the intentions of where dimorphic and static understandings of gender are revealed as arbitrary and inadequate” (Getsy 48). One can transcend their capacity, and Getsy gets at that idea here. Why should one body be capable of only doing or being able to do a set amount? If the world does not fully understand all bodies or how bodies evolve and become, how could it possibly understand what these transformed bodies can fully do? Tsaconas writes, “If capacity is a liability, how is this capacity cared for? How is it built, maintained, and measured? Moreover, how does the notion of an operative bodily capacity, always ready to be converted into a measurable quantity of labor power, shape the field of discursive meaning to which our bodies are beholden?” (Tsaconas 3). This regulation of capacity can be interpreted as society seeking a method to regulate and control bodies. If we are told and only think that we can perform a certain way, then we, as a society, might be fearful to do anymore due to the ways in which we are viewed and controlled.

    In The Affective Turn Patricia Clough wrote about Grace M. Cho’s essay ‘‘Voices from the Teum: Synesthetic Trauma and the Ghosts of the Korean Diaspora”. I had to read the book that this eventually turned into for another one of my classes. Both dealt with similar themes about the idea of “haunting” and how bodies can hold the trauma and pain of those that have come before them through this generational process. Clough writes, “[s]he treats the diasporic body as an effect of a transgenerational haunting and as a composed machinic assemblage. Diasporic bodies, she proposes, carry a vision, a machinic vision, of what they did not see and what an earlier generation saw but could not say they saw….what kind of body is the body of entanglement? What is the ontological status of a ghosted body, of a haunted materiality?” (Clough 4-7). Bodies entangled within the Korean Diaspora are bodies that had to suppress their pain in order to become “functioning bodies of society”. They were forced into doing this. I remember in the book Cho talks about the Korean women who were brought over to the United States after the war and how they were forced to completely erase the lives and the pain that they had to endure from their children. These women were expected to completely erase their lives and submit to the culture of the United States. Clough writes, “[t]he bodies of a control society are a composition of dynamic matter invested into being, an investment of capital and technoscientific experimentation. This investment of bodies for control is part of a reconfiguration of state and economy, the nation and civil society, the public and private spheres” (Clough 19). These bodies of the Korean women were forced to adapt their lives for the “betterment” of the state apparatus that is the United States. In relation to capacity and what we were talking about earlier, sure these bodies were capable of erasing the lives that came before them, but why did they specifically have to, and what price did they have to pay because of this?

    In Lisa Duggan’s The Twilight of Equality, Duggan writes, “[i]n general, too few on the left have noticed that as neoliberal policies continued to shrink the spaces for public life, democratic debate, and cultural expression during the 1990s, they were doing this through their own versions of identity politics and cultural policies, inextricably connected to economic goals for upward redistribution of resources” (Duggan XX). In terms of capability it is important to look not just at the personal, but the social as well. If neoliberalism has the capability of negatively impacting the lives of others and we do not call attention to the masking tactics, the effects of these policies will only spread.

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  4. Annie’s response:

    Lisa Duggan’s introduction to The Twilight of Inequality: Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy spells out the transition from 1960s radical cultural politics to the rise of neoliberalism since the 1970s. Duggan defines neoliberalism as “a new vision of national and world order, a vision of competition, inequality, market ‘discipline,’ public austerity, and ‘law and order’” (Duggan x). She contextualizes this definition with a historical understanding of what the terms “liberal” and “conservative” really mean– both fall under the category of classical Liberalism, meaning that both have historically provided the necessary structures for capitalism’s free market and limited government. Duggan proceeds to break the rise of neoliberalism down into five stages that correlate to post-war 20th century America, all of which relate to what we now call “identity politics”. However, as Duggan points out, it is crucial to understand the ways in which neoliberalism works to disassociate politics from culture in their discourse, but never in practice. “The economy and the interests of business can not really be abstracted from race and gender relations, from sexuality or other cleavages in the body politic,” writes Duggan (Duggan xvi). Thus, neoliberalism hides its support of white supremacy, heteronormativity, patriarchy, and (more unsuccessfully) the upward redistribution of resources by positing issues of sex, race, and class as completely separate from “neutral” and “technological” neoliberal politics.
    Duggan then goes on to critique the “progressive left” for abandoning the downward redistribution goals of the 1960s social movements, which were also interdisciplinary in their work. The 1980s saw a move towards legality-centered social movements, “The reproductive freedom movement receded, but the National Abortion Rights Action League remained; the Civil Rights and Black Power movements disintegrated, but the NAACP persisted” (Duggan xviii). Some of these movements took up neoliberal modes of redistributing upward. In this way, opposition to the growing forces of neoliberalism have been failing.
    Michael Hardt’s forward to The Affective Turn describes this shift in the humanities and social sciences as succeeding the focus on the body presented in feminist theories and the focus on emotions presented in queer theories. Affect theory deals with both the body and the mind, and thus, the logical and emotional capacities of the person. Affects, Hardt writes, “illuminate… both our power to affect the world around us and our power to be affected by it, along with the relationship between these two powers (Hardt ix). Hardt goes on to discuss Baruch Spinoza’s work on affect theory, with the most performance studies-heavy theory that I encountered being the following, “The greater our power to be affected, he posits, the greater our power to act” (Hardt, x). However, I found Hardt’s analysis of this theory as enigmatic as the theory itself, and I’ll have to look further into what he means by this. Finally, Hardt discusses the phenomenon of affective labor, “[Affective labor] suggests new political possibilities, bringing to light new and intensified forms of exploitation that are shared among a range of laboring activities and, most important, opening up avenues for political organizing and collective practices of refusal and liberation” (Hardt xii). This was both informative and eye-opening, especially after reading Duggan’s introduction. The exploitation of affective labor is especially prolific in a neoliberal society that refuses to recognize social issues as related to economics.
    Editor Patricia Clough’s introduction to The Affective Turn outlines the essays that make up the book and argues that the affective turn in critical theory is essential to theorizing politics, economy, and culture. Clough writes, “Affective Turn especially marks the way these historical changes are indicative of the changing global processes of accumulating capital and employing labor power through the deployment of technoscience to reach beyond the limitations of the human in experimentation with the structure and organization of the human body, or what is called ‘life itself’” (Clough 3). I quote at length here because I think it is in this moment that Clough’s introduction reaches across all four articles that we read for this week– the first half relates to Duggan’s introduction, and the second half relates to David Getsy’s definition of “capacity” in Keywords and to Hella Tsaconas’ Marxist analysis of Cassil’s Cuts: A Traditional Sculpture.
    In Keywords, Getsy points out the importance of both action and passivity as they relate to the term “capacity” in that capacity can mean “‘an active power or force’ and an ‘ability to receive or maintain’” (Getsy 47). Getsy then defines “Transgender Capacity” as “the ability or the potential for making visible, bringing into experience, or knowing genders as mutable, successive, and multiple” (Getsy 47). He argues that transgender capacity can appear in most anything, no matter the genre or the time at which the thing came from. The definition for capacity itself crosses the gender line in that it is a term that can mean something more typically masculine– the active power or force, like that of the penis– and *at the same time* something more typically female– the ability to receive or maintain, like that of the vagina or the uterus.
    In “Bad math: calculating bodily capacity in Cassils’s Cuts: A Traditional Sculpture”, Hella Tsaconas explores a moment in Marx’s Gundrisse in which Marx makes an error getting caught up in calculations. “It is in these moments of failure… when capital causes its own demise (which it does by definition and with necessity) – that recommencing is made possible. Crisis, somehow, begets persistence” Tsaconas writes, reflecting the focus in Clough’s introduction on compulsive repetition and trauma (Tsaconas 2). Tsaconas makes the argument that “labor invented the body”, and posits this argument as “body-as-capacity”, that is, the body as having the capacity to produce labor (an active power or force) and as being property, and thus future money (an ability to maintain) (Tsaconas 2). Finally, Tsaconas reads Cassil’s durational performance during which they explored their body’s “maximum capacity” by body building. “Capital is required – from time to time, these occasions becoming ever more frequent – to destroy its contents in order to maintain its form,” writes Tsaconas (Tsaconas 8). The same is true with muscle– but only up to a point. This is the Marxist reading of Cassil’s performance. But Cassil’s performance had an end– a “maximum capacity”, even if the limits of the human body don’t theoretically exist. Can the same be true of capitalism, or will the constant remaking of capitalism into new forms, like neoliberalism, continually make it stronger until the end of time?

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  5. Lisa Duggan’s introduction to “The Twilight of Equality?” is an excellent account/explanation of neoliberalism in the latter half of the 20th century. With foundations in the dismantling of Roosevelt’s New Deal, neoliberalism creates “a new vision of national and world order, a vision of competition, inequality, market ‘discipline,’ public austerity, and ‘law and order,'” (Duggan X). From initial attacks on the New Deal in the 1950s/60s to attacks on social movements of the 1960s/70s focused on downward redistribution to pro-business activism of the 70s to the domestic culture wars of the 80s and finally to the 90s front of multiculturalism, Duggan shows how neoliberalism has acted alongside the politics of identity and culture through a performance of neutrality in regards to economic legislation and through a bipartisan political discourse of liberalism vs conservativism. Duggan ends by establishing that the divide between leftists concerned with identity politics and leftists concerned with economic politics must be bridged. Speaking from my own personal experience, I must admit that while I am more cognizant of this split today, I am still guilty of retaining my focus on the cultural side of discourse and neglecting the impact of the economic. Of course this is but one piece of the overall political puzzle, but I agree then with Duggan in that it is through a connection of the two that a more intersectional and effective left can be manifested.

    Michael Hardt’s foreword to “The Affective Turn” is as clear a conceptualization on affect as I understood throughout the entire reading. Of mind and body, reason and passion, affect is power of sorts. Perhaps my favorite quality of the affective realm is its displacement of intentionality and its focus on causality, but as Hardt notes this is a rather “complex view of causality because the affects belong simultaneously to both sides of the causal relationship,” (Hardt IX). The central notion of not only the power to act but the power to be acted upon activates an ideology predicated on equity. I want to say equality, but I doubt that all affective situations maintain a neatly organized exchange of value between matter. To be honest, I’m not sure I quite understand “affective labor,” so you’ll have to help me a little on that one. This brings me to Patricia Ticineto Clough’s introduction in which I found moments of deeper understanding and moments of absolute confusion. I enjoyed Clough’s use of affect to open the body past its organismic existence. Thrice I have read Deleuze & Guattari’s “BwO” chapter, and I’m definitely anxious to revisit it again after this text. The official discourse of trauma is something I’m new to but am beginning to come into conversation with more and more among class discussions, peer art shows, etc. The notion of trauma as a subject’s engulfment in memory, specifically a memory without consciousness, is particularly complex but compelling. What does it mean for a body to make itself forget a past in order to maintain that past through various reperformances of forgetting? Clough does continue noting that trauma is “compulsively repeated” failing to put an end to forgetting (Clough 7). Continuing on, Clough’s discussion of organic and nonorganic matter was perhaps my favorite part of this reading. That doesn’t mean I get it, but I did enjoy it. The notion of disequilibrium and its pursuit through the death drive is fascinating. “As such the organism is opened to the possibility of change in its organization and structure and is better understood as a machinic assemblage, which, at this time, is approaching a ‘techno-ontological threshold,’ such that the ‘human is implicated in a postbiological evolution as part of its very definition,” (Clough 12). I find this passage to be indicative of the capacity for autonomy in each human being. In particular, this postbiological notion is exciting as it asserts that each human itself is the definer of its boundaries, its conceptualization, its body. This discussion of capacity leads perfectly into the final two articles. (Clough’s discipline to control portion of the intro was literal word soup to me, so can we elaborate/explore in class?)

    Hella Tsaconas’ “Bad mat” is a super clear but also challenging look into notions of the athletic body and its measurability/value in late capitalism. David Getsy uses the Oxford English Dictionary Online to define capacity, fundamentally, as “‘holding power,'” (Getsy 47). I think this is one of the best definitions of capacity as it is at once active and passive. Holding indicates some sort of accumulation. Power indicates some sort of potentiality. I see capacity then as an accumulation of potential.

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    1. (Wow! I almost died because I thought my post went away forever, but I just accidentally posted it without finishing it. So I shall finish it briefly below.)

      While transgender capacity is the ability to “know genders as mutable, successive and multiple,” labor capacity is “the physical body itself materialize[d] as property of the worker,” (Tsaconas 2). The double exploitation of the laborer stands out to me. Not only is a worker exploited on the principal of capitalism deriving value from the excess/surplus of their labor, but the responsibility of the worker to maintain a capacity of their body worthy enough of the capitalist’s (always excessive) demand is laborious and exploitative in and of itself. Thinking the athletic in terms of measurements of bodily capacity is definitely helpful in theorizing performances of the body in late capitalism. I really enjoyed the discussion of Cassil’s piece “Cuts.” I find the artist’s lack of an explicitly quantitative goal and a more ambivalent pursuit of their body’s maximum capacity a dance with the disequilibrium of affect. By traveling into the noisy unknown and the instability of their body’s boundaries, Cassil performs what Clough discusses above as they, the human artist themself, becomes part of the very definition of their body. Cassil takes the capacity of their body into their own hands, trying it until it hits a dangerous limit. I think it’s time we take Cassil as an example and really test our bodily capacities. Or I guess I think it’s time I do that.

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  6. The main thing I took away from Patricia Clough’s introduction to The Affective Turn was the sustained argument to think of bodies as open-ended technosystems rather than as organisms that are distinct from nature, culture, and the “outside” world. The notion of an affect as a bodies ability to “act, engage, and connect—to affect and be affected” (2) presupposes an open-ended body that is co-constitutive with its environment. It both is worked on and works on what is “outside.” Clough goes on to map how this means that not only are bodies themselves dynamic and alive, but so is matter and the non-human. Clough labels the points of connection between the body and the environment as “informational… primarily a matter of contact and conductibility, a modulation of affectivity and attention by fashioning or reducing the real through the exclusion of possibilities” (17). Through these connecting points between the body and the environment in which the two shape one another, we then come to know the world, what is possible, what is “real.” What I gather Clough is saying is that this is specific to the affective turn; prior notions of the body that posit it as closed/“organic” rely on teleological narratives of discovery and progressive capacity as the maximization of the abilities of a single body. Clough then, via Deleuze, goes on to relate the technical capacities of the body to reach beyond itself and come back as something different to emergent forms of capital accumulation and discipline (“the control society”) that harvests these affective capacities as new sites of capital accumulation—“where capital shifts its domain of accumulation to life itself” (20). This is, I think, another name and route of inquiry for neoliberalism. (There are few historical markers in the essay, but near the end we’re placed in the late 20th-century and the conception of neoliberalism by the strange and ahistorical namedropping of the 1973 oil crisis).
    The ending of the introduction resonated with the Tsaconas essay. Both take us to Moten and Harney and both strikes a tentative hopeful note. Tsaconas concludes Bad Math by inviting the reader to consider a capacity that is different from the “mythical maximum capacity” we hear so much about (be your best self!). She turns the tables on this capacity and towards a capacity grounded in the “potentially infinite form of social relation that moves fluidly between ability and need… need cannot be measured. Reliance is a tireless capacity” (9). This move is super interesting in that it places capacity next to and within the dynamic and co-constitutive relationship between the open-ended techno body and the environment that Clough advances. Is our endless capacity to be affected our founding ontology? And what if this realm is the new frontier of capital accumulation? What do our (leftist) social movements look like in response? Is this the ” interconnected, analytically diverse, cross-fertilizing and expansive left” (xxii) that Duggan argues for?

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  7. Synthesizing the concepts of capacity and affect, the four readings exemplify the ways in which these concepts challenge epistemological understandings of experiences of both past and present and contend with the notion that perhaps even this temporal division is an inadequate organization of thought. A similar argument is made in each piece that the division of knowledge into categories that are imagined to be separate from one another distracts from the interconnectedness of social, political, economic, and affective accounts of experience.

    Beginning with Getsy’s definition of capacity as “power as potentiality, incipience, and imminence… accounts of gender’s dynamism, plurality, and expansiveness” (47). Getsy emphasizes that capacity in the context of interdisciplinary critiques function as “a tool for resisting” the ways that challenge and expand existing epistemologies. This definition also makes use of the Foucauldian reading of power and its relation to capacity that must be understood through exercise and action to be accessed and legible. In dialogue with Clough’s concept of “affective capacity”, the potentiality of bodies is a theoretical project that expands to questions of subjectivity and memory. In the Foreword, Hardt remarks, “we do not know in advance what a body can do, what a mind can think— what affects they are capable of“ (x). This question of the affective capacity of bodies is one that ties into both Duggan’s argument in the deployment of neoliberalism as well as further in Tsaconas’s Marxist conception of bodily labor.

    Duggan argues that the distribution of inequalities relies on the rhetoric around a “politics of the possible” that arises from the psychic separation of identity politics from economic policy (XVIII). She argues that, “the economy cannot be transparently abstracted from the state or the family”, but that political discourse from the 1970s through to present day has operated through a kind of affective capacity manipulated by the devaluation of identity groups and the false neutrality of political and economic operations. In tandem with the capacity of bodies in economic terms, is where Tsaconas’s argument begins. Under the Marxist interpretation of the body and its labor as property, “value is located in the body, not yet realized as money” (Tsaconas 2). The ability for the body to be de-possessed is inherent in this interpretation, where “the worker is obligated to relate to his capacity as alien from himself” leads into an othering of the body from the self which Clough argues is necessarily the state of the subject in relation not to economics but to trauma.

    Expanding further in Clough’s interpretation of affective capacity as it relates to the individual, she deconstructs the epistemology of memory as possessive of a kind of affective capacity which disrupts our notion of trauma and temporality. “The subject is shaped around a void, a real that is already lost and only leaves traces of its loss as traumatic effects” (5). Clough posits subjectivity as existing in constant circulation between other bodies and technologies as irreducible to the self but also as an internal system of assemblages which forms around attempts to produce a subject in the midst of fundamental absences caused by trauma.

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  8. In The Twilight of Inequality: Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy, Lisa Duggan gives an illuminating history of the rise of neoliberalism and it’s many layers of veiled intent. The seventies saw a cohesion of social and liberation movements which at first seemed revolutionary, but would lead to the demise of social issue as non-neutral primary human rights issues, and would also dilute each individual movement, pushing them under the umbrella of “liberal”. The neoliberal movement created a trend of upward redistribution which began with Reagan in the 80’s, in direct opposition to the downward equal distribution movements of the 60’s. Only far right and far left offer a counter to Liberalism. She explains that every stage of the development of neoliberalism has relied on identity and cultural politics (xii), though it’s roots are in law and order, and the approach of identity politics a neutral economic platform reinforces normativeness. 
    Clough’s stance in the forward to Affective Turn is best summarized by her articulation that “specifically, the two primary precursors to the abective turn I see in U.S. academic work are the focus on the body, which has been most extensively advanced in feminist theory, and the exploration of emotions, conducted predominantly in queer theory” (Clough ix). She clarifies that affect is no longer a human body-centric concept but closely linked with the technological and intellectual worlds which can highlight and quantify affect better than previously thought (Clough 2). Her points about Deleuze and psycoanalysis were extremely interesting to me, specifically the grey areas of hunting, affect, and trauma. She states “the crack of time, in which the actualization of the virtual is made possible, is like the imaginary of psychoanalysis, where it is unclear whether one is in the past or the present, resulting in a haunting in time, of time, a folding of time” (Clough 13), which I think speaks to affect, collective memory, and indescribable somatic intelligence. These relate loosely, but I think I want to ruminate further on articulating how I feel about it.
    The Getsky definition of capacity I found to be VERY useful, and really this whole document, when skimmed, clarified to me many of the subtle differences between terms we have been throwing around. Getsky’s definition was clear and technical, as “an active power or force” which manifests when exercised in systems of power, often with unintended effect. I especially liked his final point, that there are “innumerable forms and modes of transgender capacity still to be found, imagined, or realized” (49), as it reminds me of the sort of impossible breadth of studies on affect, dispositif, etc.
    Hella Tsaconas’ marxist analysis of labor and capability as tied to athletic build was very satisfying. The clarification that a body is ‘owned’ by someone, and that maximum capacity can be reached with absolute dedication to labor is super interesting, and she proposes “a shift away entirely from an instrumental understanding of capacity as the ability to perform labor” (Tsaconas 9), in this case, actual push-ups.

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  9. In The Twilight of Inequality, Lisa Duggan traces the rise of Liberalism in the late 20th century as a justification for capitalism. She divides this period into five phases that each “relied on identity and cultural politics” (Duggan XII). She calls neoliberalism a “secular faith” because of its reliance on the idea that its doctrines are inevitable and that they are better for everyone, even those who must suffer in the meantime (Duggan XIII). This falls right in line with our recent class discussions about how certain genders and ability levels are constructed as natural and inevitable. Like in those cases, systems like communism and socialism that fall outside of the accepted spectrum are constructed as terrible to further strengthen said spectrum. She then goes on to gives three reasons why this happened: neoliberalism’s focus on the economy as a science that the common person can’t understand, a bipartisan political system in which neoliberalism falls everywhere on the spectrum, and the ever-changing alliances with different values that are held all just to “facilitate the flow of money.” She ends the Introduction with her main point, which is that the progressive left will fail if it continues to separate issues of the economy from social issues (represented in this election by the Bernie Bros and the people who supported Hillary because of her focus on racial, gender, and LGBT equality).

    In “Capacity” David Getsy, Getsy explores the meaning of the word capacity as it relates to transgender identity. In this sense, capacity is somewhat like ability or potential. Getsy states that trans capacity includes the ability to see the genders as “mutable, successive, and multiple.” Getsy says that the usefulness of studying transgender capacity comes from its use as a too l to combat erasure and invisibility. It’s unfortunate that our society values marginalized identities so little that some are forced to prove their own usefulness. I wonder if it’s more that or more like how science is always finding out more things in the name of biodiversity, because the more we know about the ability of animals, the better it is for all. In that sense, it means that studying something like transgender capacity doesn’t have a “goal” necessarily and would exist even without a capitalist system that required identities to validate themselves.

    Hella Tsaconas theorizes that labor has created a system that values the “body as capacity,” or sees the body as the sum of its potential for creating labor and nothing more. She explains that apps that give you bodily benchmarks and things that improve a body’s capacity are always looked at in terms of what the body can do better, and are inexorably linked to capacity for labor. She uses Cassile’s “Cuts” to explain that getting a better work out is defined by the proximity one has to reaching the “maximum capacity,” an arbitrary point in which the body can no longer go on. She relates this to capitalism, concluding that capitalism necessarily has to break itself down to continue and that this breaking down is not actually bad until it reaches Marx’s prophecy of leading to the overthrow of the entire system. This point comes, for capitalism, when it has broken itself down and need rises to the point of revolution, and for Cassile, when the muscles get too big and prevent the shirt from being taken off.

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  10. I had a really difficult time digesting these readings and I’m not really sure why but the one the resonated with me the most was the Clough piece. In Duggan’s The Twilight of Equality, she speaks about neoliberalism and the shifts in politics from more open and community friends to the small government dominated narrative that reduced the ways in which people could gather and express themselves. Something Duggan wrote that I found very interesting was: “neoliberalism is a kind of secular faith. Its priests were elected by no one, and are accountable only to the global elites whose interests are promoted by its policies” (XIII). Putting government in a religious description plays upon the ways in which government practices and actions can seem far off and less connected to the people themselves, as neoliberalism pushed to do.
    In Clough’s The Affective Turn, the introduction discusses in more depth the meaning and ability that affect has. I found this reading to be really helpful in clarifying the ways in which affect functions and plays a part in the everyday. Clough’s quote “affect refers generally to bodily capacities to affect and be affected or the augmentation or diminution of a body’s capacity to act, to engage, and to connect, such that autoaffection is linked to the self-feeling of being alive—that is, aliveness or vitality” (2) works to define what affect is before going into more complex analysis of the ways in which affect functions. I was a little thrown off by how many different essays and perspectives were introduced in this piece but it does help to give an idea of how broad this field of study goes and that is something that I found pretty interesting.
    Getsy’s piece on Capacity was short, which was definitely a nice break from how heavy the other readings were. I feel like in many ways capacity and affect are connected and work together. Capacity is interesting in that it covers two ends of a spectrum. While it represents the limits that one has, it is also a signifier of their maximum and minimum ability. Getsy states that “Only when exercised do capacities become fully apparent and they may lie in wait to be achieved” (47) that is until we push ourselves do to something we will be unaware of the capacity that we have to complete (or incomplete) the task at hand. This reading ties into E. Hella Tsaconas’ piece Bad math: Calculating bodily capacity in Cassils’s cuts: A Traditional Sculpture. While I did find this reading a little confusing at first, it was really interesting to see how a case study was taken and examined within an academic lens. This reading tied together much of the above in the way in which capacity of the body was tested and examined by Cassils and the way in which the labor induced in this capacity came to effect the overall outcome of the work itself.

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  11. In The Twilight of Inequality, Lisa Duggan traces the rise of Liberalism in the late 20th century as a justification for capitalism. She divides this period into five phases that each “relied on identity and cultural politics” (Duggan XII). She calls neoliberalism a “secular faith” because of its reliance on the idea that its doctrines are inevitable and that they are better for everyone, even those who must suffer in the meantime (Duggan XIII). This falls right in line with our recent class discussions about how certain genders and ability levels are constructed as natural and inevitable. Like in those cases, systems like communism and socialism that fall outside of the accepted spectrum are constructed as terrible to further strengthen said spectrum. She then goes on to givevthree reasons why this happened: neoliberalism’s focus on the economy as sacred for a moral and efficient government, a bipartisan political system in which neoliberalism falls everywhere on the spectrum, and the ever-changing “alliances and issues” that businesses concern themselves with in order to “facilitate the flow of money.” She ends the Introduction with her main point, which is that the progressive left will fail if it continues to separate issues of the economy from social issues.
    In “Capacity” David Getsy, Getsy explains the meaning of the word capacity as it relates to transgender identity. In this sense, capacity is somewhat like ability or potential. The capacity of transgenderism has tons of ways in which it isn’t actualized yet. Getsy theorizes it could emerge at “any site where dimorphic and static understandings of gender are revealed as arbitrary or inadequate.” Looking at gender as “temporal, successive, or transformable” calls for what is essentially a remapping of history. This immediately makes me think of robots/synthetic brains that will exist in the future, and the potential genderless identity that they will have, which could cause humans to see the binary as less stark.
    The Affective Turn by Patricia Clough discusses affect theory, which is similar to capacity in that it is “a substrate of potential bodily responses… in excess of consciousness.” Technoscience relates to affect theory as well, as its evolution constantly “expresses a new configuration of bodies, technology, and matter instigating a shift in thought in critical theory.” She explains that this book is about a way of thinking that encapsulates the ever changing nature of “the political, the ecomomic, the cultural.” She then goes on to give an explanation of which “chaotic processes” that are described throughout the rest of the book led to the present construction of the social.
    In Bad Math: Calculating Bodily Capacity in Cassils’s Cuts: a traditional sculpture, Tsaconas explores how the capitalist system and its focus on living labor and surplus labor, constructed a new body. That is, the body as its capacity to do things. Because this capacity is a type of currency and because that currency relies on physical strength, the physical body of the worker is his property. She then uses Cassils’ Cuts to explore the relation that this has to sports and athleticism – our culture’s chief method of performance to purposefully measure bodily capacity. She says that it purposefully doesn’t focus on a specific “end goal,” but instead serves to imagine the body in all its capacity, a mixture of what it is made, unmade, and remade in perpetuity.

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