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  • Afterword
  • A. Kiarina Kordela

An appropriate way to conclude in this context would be through a self-reflective gesture, and I think this is what the following question raised by the editors of Cultural Critique is inviting: What makes epistemontology possible at the current moment?

Certainly, a condition of its possibility relates to the need to go beyond the entire tradition of representationalism whose severance of words and things, from Kant to deconstruction and discursive constructionism, constitutes, as Foucault has observed, the mark of the modern episteme. Of course, this tendency was bound to produce sooner or later a reaction, as its underside. A longing for an unmediated revelation of being without the distortions that, according to this same tradition, are certain to result from its passage through the defiles of representation, has increasingly been manifesting itself in the past century, as is evidenced in attempts such as Heidegger's "disclosure of being," Badiou's "return to Plato," Deleuze's "expressionism," and, more recently, speculative materialism and object-oriented ontology. But, at the same time, one might be tempted to see in the contemporary overabundance of tattoos and other ways of penetrating the body with the signifier a symptom expressing the unconscious craving to go beyond both sides, the glorification of an autonomous representation and its condemnation. Through its correlation of Spinoza's monism and Marx's theories of commodity fetishism and historical materialism, epistemontology takes as given the unison and equivalence of things and words insofar as "the order and connections of ideas is the same as the order and connections of things" (Spinoza, Ethics IIP7)—both expressing the same being—or insofar as "the characteristic which objects of utility have of being values is as much men's social product as is their language" (Marx 1990, 167). [End Page 204]

But this condition of epistemontology's possibility, which is addressed extensively in the book, could limit it to a conception of being as exhaustible within its two aspects of a material object (in diachrony) and a value or structure (in synchrony)—even as, as the book also shows, Spinoza's and Marx's, as well as Lacan's, works point to something further. And the condition of the impossibility to ignore this "something further" can be called a general turn to affect—insofar as affect is conceived as the excess to discourse (i.e., to the knowable, formalizable, and countable, whether in diachronic or synchronic terms). Let me elaborate a bit more on this condition of epistemontology's possibility.

Our era constitutes a next step in the project of the aestheticization of politics. According to Benjamin's 1935 definition of the term, aestheticization of politics means that the political sphere became a spectacle in which the masses could express their political rights in inconsequential ways—that is, without any effect on actually changing property relations. Crucially, Benjamin's concept presupposes that "rights" means nothing other than precisely rights on property relations. This remained to some extent or other the case up until the end of the Cold War. By contrast, the era of global capitalism, in which epistemontology becomes possible, is one in which the political spectacle ceases to be an arena for expressing political rights altogether. That is, people no longer even imagine that the political sphere concerns the issue of property relations. It is for this reason that our era appears and is self-proclaimed as post-ideological, or even post-political—which is how a power that pretends to represent not a position of mastery but one of scientific expertise (in one word, biopower) presents itself. We are no longer in the aestheticization of politics but in the aesthetics of the apolitical or, what amounts to the same, the aesthetics of the panpolitical, since its characteristic is the ubiquitous invocation of rights and the politicization of everything (from race, sexuality, and identity to all language), intertwined with the depoliticization of the political itself (a "political" devoid of property relations). In this era of the panapolitical, affect takes primacy over ideology and, ultimately, over any discursive position or argument.

In order to exemplify this gradual shift within the biopolitical era, from the Cold War to contemporary...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1460-2458
Print ISSN
0882-4371
Pages
pp. 204-210
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-11
Open Access
No
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