Under the current conditions of debt and exposure, nation-states can’t bear to admit their abjection, can’t bear that they have become mere supplicants for the wealth that they have allowed to become privately held on behalf of a spectral growth on whose tithing the state has come to depend. The Euro-American state is a cowardly lion, a weeping bully, a plaintive lover to finance capital. It cannot bear to admit that, having grown its own administrative limbs to serve at the pleasure of the new sovereign of privatized wealth, that the wealthy feel no obligation to feed the state. So the state bails out banks and tells the polis to tighten up, claiming that the people are too expensive to be borne through their state, which can no longer afford their appetite for risk. They are told that they should feel shame for having wanted more than they could bear responsibility for and are told that they should take satisfaction in ratcheting down their image of the good life and the pleasures to be had in the process of its production. The affective orchestration of the crisis has required blaming the vulnerable for feeling vulnerable; not due only to a general precarity but also to the political fact that there is no longer an infrastructure for holding the public as a public. The public must become entrepreneurial individuals. All of the strikes and tea parties in response to the state’s demand for an austere sacrifice under the burden of shame tell us that this incitement for the public to become archaic as a public is not going down too easily.
Affect & the Politics of Austerity
An interview exchange with Lauren Berlant
Ms elektro… is onto something special today in calling our attention to this interview. I have now subscribed to Lauren Berlant’s blog. I did not know of her before this. Here’s the last bit of the interview:
To make possible the time and space for flourishing affective infrastructures, of grace and graciousness, such as those I’ve described could make happiness and social optimism possible not as prophylactic fantasy or credit psychosis but in ordinary existence. All of the hustling that goes on amongst the working and non-working poor and the generally stressed has to do with the desire to coast a little instead of work and police ourselves to death. But right now there’s not a lot of easy coasting going around outside of the zones of disinhibition that provide episodes of relief from the daily exhaustion, and people seem to think that if they’re policed, if they’re always auditioning for citizenship and social membership, so too should others be forced to live near the edge of the cliff and earn standing, the right to stand. Welfare used to be called ‘relief’. ‘Relief’ must have said much more than it was bearable to say about the capitalist stress position.