We lead issue 15.4 of Theory & Event with Mladen Dolar’s essay, “Brecht’s Gesture.” For Dolar, whose concern throughout is the status of ideological thinking and its relation to capitalist society, Brecht’s gesture is a double gesture – at once cynical and ascetic – and oriented to the role of sacrifice in capitalist ideology. Rather than renouncing ideological sacrifice, Dolar argues, Brecht embraces it to the point of a radical self-renunciation thereby dismantling the very structure of ideological subjectivity itself. Brecht’s gesture is a hyper-exaggerating of the basic demands of ideology: sacrifice and self-alienation. The result of such hyper-exaggeration is the annihilation of the subject of ideology through a strategy of being more ideological than ideology.
Alex Livingston’s essay begins with the tectonic shift that caused the 1906 San Francisco earthquake as a site and resource for appreciating William James’ radical empiricism. The earthquake, and James’ response to it, is on Livingston’s reading a crucial event that marks James’ own gravitational shift in liberal ontology. Livingston’s point in the essay is to return to what he calls a “strange agency” that James discovers in his experience of the earthquake so as to reconsider James’ radical empiricist metaphysics as a political metaphysic that moves him away from an atomistic individualism and towards a relational or molecular individualism.
Marco Deseriis’ essay, entitled “Irony and the Politics of Composition in the Philosophy of Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi,” explores the praxis-oriented role of irony in the media practices and theoretical writings of Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi. Deseriis shows how Berardi’s emphasis on irony as a political-mediatic technics does not lead to a post-modern cynicism but to a pragmatics of political organization through symbolic disorder. Citing “Baudrillard’s strategy of symbolic death and refusal to signify as especially relevant in times of semiotic inflation and information overload such as the ones we live in,” Deseriis’ essay offers a compelling reflection on the need to think further about the questions of informatics, information overload, and networked political life.
Mario Feit’s contribution slows us down in order to speed us up again. His essay responds to Sheldon Wolin’s challenge that our time is a bad time for democratic politics and for political theory. In doing so Feit turns Wolin’s “What Time is It?” question on its head and asks what is the nature of our affective relation to time as a resource for political action? Feit transmorphs Wolin’s question into a question of the affects of patience and impatience, and the relations of patience and impatience to theoretical reflection and political events. This results in a sustained exploration of the temporal tensions between democratic politics and theoretical reflection in order to consider the forms of politics available to a demotic impatience.
Ali Aslam’s essay, “Politics, Out of the Ordinary,” points us to the documentary practices of the Occupy Wall Street movement, both in terms of the physical occupation and the persistent documentation of OWS events. Aslam’s compelling claim is that the OWS practices of documentary relentlessly re-create the ordinary in spectacular terms. The result, Aslam argues, is that the production and dissemination of documentary practices via YouTube, Tumblr, and Twitter generate views of the micro-ordinary in everyday life that would otherwise go unnoted in the face of the current neo-liberal political order.
Issue 15.4 concludes with six book reviews: Kennan Ferguson reviews Peter Sloterdijk’s Bubbles: Spheres I; Nicolae Morar and Colin Koopman review Thomas Lemke’s Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction; Sammy Badran reviews Danny Hoffman’s The War Machines, Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia; Javier Burdman reviews Rodolphe Gasché’s Europe, or the Infinite Task; Anastasia Tataryn reviews Anne McNevin’s Contesting Citizenship: Irregular Migrants and New Frontiers of the Political; and Matt S. Whitt reviews Frank Ruda’s Hegel’s Rabble: An Investigation into Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Right.’