Prefigurative mobilizations replace protest with direct action, means and ends becoming ideally one and the same. Analytically this entails a two-step movement: first, subtraction (withdrawal) from some arrangement; second, affirmation of an alternative. Both positive and critical assessments focus on the strength or lack of affirmativeness. However, as Foucault and governmentality studies have shown, power today crucially builds on promoting and influencing behaviours, rather than on commanding and prohibiting. Neglect of this aspect depends on the dominance, in current social and political theory, of ‘affirmative thinking’, whereby emancipation stems from the unbridled expression of vital forces. The flaws of affirmationism are discussed by focusing on post-workerist autonomism and degrowth theory. The possibility for subtraction to be self-sufficient in actualizing the alternative, rather than instrumental to the affirmation of something else, is explored with the help of Adorno and Agamben. The former offers a framework for understanding the emancipatory force of negation; the latter gives clues to how negation can be actually lived, via the concept of inoperativity. This is not passivity but activity pivoting on the human capacity of not being or doing – of leaving potentials inactualized – not as renunciation but as achievement, running counter to the capitalist thrust to endless (self-)valorization. Observable experiences offer clues to how consistency of doing with being (form-of-life) is pursued against the lure and trap of its opposite (lifestyle). In this view, as with Benjamin’s account of revolution, the transformative potential of prefiguration may lie more in doing things differently than in doing different things.

Prefiguration, subtraction and emancipation

Pellizzoni, Luigi
2021

Abstract

Prefigurative mobilizations replace protest with direct action, means and ends becoming ideally one and the same. Analytically this entails a two-step movement: first, subtraction (withdrawal) from some arrangement; second, affirmation of an alternative. Both positive and critical assessments focus on the strength or lack of affirmativeness. However, as Foucault and governmentality studies have shown, power today crucially builds on promoting and influencing behaviours, rather than on commanding and prohibiting. Neglect of this aspect depends on the dominance, in current social and political theory, of ‘affirmative thinking’, whereby emancipation stems from the unbridled expression of vital forces. The flaws of affirmationism are discussed by focusing on post-workerist autonomism and degrowth theory. The possibility for subtraction to be self-sufficient in actualizing the alternative, rather than instrumental to the affirmation of something else, is explored with the help of Adorno and Agamben. The former offers a framework for understanding the emancipatory force of negation; the latter gives clues to how negation can be actually lived, via the concept of inoperativity. This is not passivity but activity pivoting on the human capacity of not being or doing – of leaving potentials inactualized – not as renunciation but as achievement, running counter to the capitalist thrust to endless (self-)valorization. Observable experiences offer clues to how consistency of doing with being (form-of-life) is pursued against the lure and trap of its opposite (lifestyle). In this view, as with Benjamin’s account of revolution, the transformative potential of prefiguration may lie more in doing things differently than in doing different things.
2021
Settore SPS/10 - Sociologia dell'Ambiente e del Territorio
prefigurative politics; affirmative biopolitics; autonomist Marxism; inoperativity; Adorno; Agamben
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11384/128130
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