Much excitement has gone into issue 14.4 of Theory and Event, not only because of the excellent contributions of our writers, but also because of the singular events that have accompanied its production and release. We are speaking, of course, of the Occupy Wall Street movements in New York and throughout the United States, as well as the resistance and solidarity movements against global capitalism that have spanned - and continue to span - our worlds in recent days. As an interdisciplinary journal that seeks to foster international and cross-disciplinary dialogue about issues in contemporary politics and political theory, Theory and Event has from its inception held to its mandate to "respond effectively to the events and circumstances that influence how we currently think, react, reflect and propose." The call for theory "to respond effectively" to events is not a call for theory that is simply "current" or "topical." Rather, it is a mandate for an event-infused mode of thinking that does not reside in any one arch-methodology or uber-purpose. Issue 14.4 - and its accompanying supplement - continues to respond to and reassert this mandate.
Issue 14.4 begins with Michael Shapiro's "The Moralized Economy in Hard Times." Shapiro takes us through American streets via the moral economy of the automobile industry, a trip illuminated by the recent government bailouts. Through detours, short-cuts, and wanderings, Shapiro's approach does not focus on the political economy of the bailouts or the auto industry per se. Rather, in a way reminiscent of Baudelaire's flanneur, he explores the ontological depth of automobile culture in the US by collating impressions of its vivacity in a television drama, a comic strip, a series of novels, and a film. Shapiro's innovative approach to doing political theory and cultural analysis enables him to draw out an "automobility" that is central to the cultural capital of America's political economy.
Jeremy Arnold's essay "Should Death do us Part?: Singular Bodies and Ethical Responsibilities" begins with a discussion of a series of images, and specifically photographic images of killed bodies. His concern is what to make of our exposure to such killed bodies, and what standing do killed bodies have in our political imaginaries. Such exposures, he suggests, do not in and of themselves dictate any particular political or ethical position. Rather, and as he aptly puts is, "exposure and responsiveness to the singularity of the killed body is a challenge to the possibility of morally justifying sovereign violence." Engaging Jean-Luc Nancy's ontology of "being singular plural," Arnold explores the dynamics of what he calls "moral horror" which regards the scenario of what it means to be face-to-face to a non-responsive, killed body and how that scenario interrupts the dynamics of recognition often enlisted in moral argument.
In "Hope, Fear, and the Politics of Affective Agency," Susan McManus explores one of the most difficult dimensions of political theorizing; namely, how and why does political agency happen? More to the point, McManus's concern regards the possibility of activism in the face of fear, and the psychology of agency that is always entangled with a dynamic spectrum of affectivities ranging from fear to hope, and back again. Rather than rejecting the established ambivalence of affect (i.e., affect is in and of itself is neither progressive nor conservative in its political orientation), McManus hopes to, as she affirms, "foreground its latent productivity so as to interrupt an affective politics in which hope is presumed to shape subversive agency while fear renders subjects complicit and governable."
Wanda Vrasti's essay, "'Caring' Capitalism and the Duplicity of Critique," enlists Foucault's critique of governmentality and autonomist Marxist writings, to explore the psychological and social reproduction of neoliberal capitalism. The question that bears upon Vrasti is a time-honored question of political theory: why is it that we choose to do things that we know are bad for us? Vrasti's point is that in answering such questions, we cannot assume that 'knowing' and 'choosing' are adequate to the modes of attachment that enlist our investments in social and political structures that are patently destructive. The issue, therefore, regards what we expect of critique, and how we might develop critical practices that are not singularly oriented towards knowing and choosing as the sole registers of political participation. While Vrasti was completing revisions on her essay the Occupy Wall Street movement began. She concludes her essay by connecting her arguments on the registers of participation with these events.
Issue 14.4 concludes with five book reviews: Jodi Dean reviews Bruno Bosteels' The Actuality of Communism; Farah Godrej reviews Margaret Kohn and Keally McBride's Political Theories of Decolonization: Postcolonialism and the Problem of Foundations; Diego Rossello reviews Eric Santner's The Royal Remains: The People's Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty; Charles Barbour reviews Giorgio Agamben's The Sacrament of Language: An Archaeology of the Oath; and Ronald J. Schmidt, Jr. Reviews Michael J. Shapiro's The Time of the City: Politics, Philosophy and Genre.
The three Editors of Theory and Event have also sought to remain faithful to events by including a special issue supplement on the occupations. In the spirit of Theory and Event's mandate of event-infused political theory, we invited some thinkers and activists to submit their thoughts about, reflections on, and in some cases speeches delivered at Zuccotti Park, in Oakland, and elsewhere. These responses are available for an introductory three-month period as an open access supplement to this issue. We invite you to circulate the link to Issue 14.4 and its supplement widely, exploiting all the forums, blogs, posts, and social media outlets available, to keep theorizing moving in pace with the event.