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Political Affect

Connecting the Social and the Somatic

2009
Author:

John Protevi

Political Affect

Encounters the visceral connection between politics and emotion

Political Affect investigates the relationship between the social and the somatic: how our bodies, minds, and social settings are intricately linked. Bringing together concepts from science, philosophy, and politics, John Protevi develops a perspective he calls political physiology to indicate that subjectivity is socially conditioned and sometimes bypassed in favor of a connection of the social and the somatic, as with the politically triggered emotions of rage and panic.

Are you bored with both a social science that runs from complexity theory in neuroscience and biology and an interpretive approach that either brackets nature and bodies or reduces social communication to organic process? If so, Political Affect is the book for you. John Protevi not only draws Deleuze and complexity theory into fruitful conversations about affect, attractors and emergence, he carries the result into valuable explorations of recent events. A timely and compelling book.

William E. Connolly, author of Capitalism and Christianity, American Style

For many philosophers, the rational cognitive (Cartesian) subject defines the human, or at least defines what humans should be. Yet some recent cognitive science, as well as the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari, has called into question such individuality and rationality and emphasized social and emotional subjectivity. Understanding such embodied and embedded subjectivity, John Protevi argues, demands the notion of bodies politic.

In Political Affect, Protevi investigates the relationship between the social and the somatic: how our bodies, minds, and social settings are intricately and intimately linked. Bringing together concepts from science, philosophy, and politics, he develops a perspective he calls political physiology to indicate that subjectivity is socially conditioned and sometimes bypassed in favor of a direct connection of the social and the somatic, as with the politically triggered basic emotions of rage and panic. Protevi’s treatment of affective cognition in social context breaks new theoretical ground, insisting that subjectivity be studied both in its embodied expression and in terms of the distribution of affective cognitive responses in a population.

Moving beyond the theoretical, Protevi applies his concept of political affect to show how unconscious emotional valuing shaped three recent, emotionally charged events: the cold rage of the Columbine High School slayings, the racialized panic that delayed rescue efforts in Hurricane Katrina, and the twists and turns of empathy occasioned by the Terry Schiavo case. These powerful individual and collective political events require new philosophical understanding.

Political Affect

John Protevi is professor of French studies at Louisiana State University. His other books include Political Physics: Deleuze, Derrida, and the Body Politic and Time and Exteriority: Aristotle, Heidegger, Derrida.

Political Affect

Are you bored with both a social science that runs from complexity theory in neuroscience and biology and an interpretive approach that either brackets nature and bodies or reduces social communication to organic process? If so, Political Affect is the book for you. John Protevi not only draws Deleuze and complexity theory into fruitful conversations about affect, attractors and emergence, he carries the result into valuable explorations of recent events. A timely and compelling book.

William E. Connolly, author of Capitalism and Christianity, American Style

This fascinating book is lucidly written, given its rich ambition, and will be of great interest to graduate students and faculty who wish to reengage that question most central to political philosophy: human nature itself.

Choice

Protevi’s project is provocative, with much opportunity for productive engagement with the complex ways bodies, selves, and societies create and are shaped by human environments.

JAC: A Journal of Rhetoric

Political Affect is a very engaging and ambitious project that addresses fundamental
questions regarding human nature. Whether or not we accept its conclusions, it is a cogent
and comprehensive enterprise that should appeal not only to continental and analytic
philosophers, but also to social scientists. I highly recommend it.

Philosophy in Review

For those interested in Deleuze, affect, or the ways bodies are implicated in and connected to several seemingly disconnected forces, this book is a must read.

Space and Culture

Protevi’s work challenges disciplinary borders, provides a fresh approach to an understanding of subjectivity, and is brimming with compelling case studies. For these reasons Protevi’s text is well worth reading and will challenge what we thought we knew about the political subject.

Symposium

Political Affect

UMP blog Q&A: On Gilles Deleuze, philosophical tools, and "political affect"

11/25/2009
I think case studies are an important and under-used tool in philosophy, as opposed to thought experiments ... with case studies we’re not after essential distinctions at the borders of categories. Instead, we’re trying to explore concrete situations and the “problems” they express. Here is where my reliance on the thought of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze comes in.
Read more ...