Notes from Wendy Brown’s “Subjects of Tolerance” OR is that a quill in your pocket?

October 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

(Image courtesy of Nikki Reimer)

There’s no getting it when it comes to affect theory. But what Brown exposes is how that which binds individuals and groups is based on an order of affect attached to belief. A problematic arises as the culturalization of liberal democratic societies produces a division between those who have culture and whom culture has. Within the context of the War on Terror, the West eagerly promote their position as the moral arbiter of tolerance (i.e., respect for women’s rights, free speech, private property, religious). Most importantly, it is based on time when the logic of tolerance is implemented for political gain.

Her analysis includes how those bound to their culture show great signs of weakness while those on the outside, freely able to exit and enter as they so choose, are mighty and powerful. The latter bare the marks of a strong national culture. We discussed how immigration often produces strong religious sentiments as a way to build strong ties and bonds.

Brown turns to Freud to expose how group behaviours are enacted. Let us remember how civilization, according to Freud, is both the source of individual happiness and is the undoing of the social subject. That which binds and unravels is based in affect not traits. According to Freud, we “progress” from organicist identities to individuals. To be in love, to satisfy our own desires narcissistically, replaces the ego ideal by a common object — a common voice, a common leader. If love is made public it becomes dangerous. Love must be civilized, must be domesticated.

Culture is powerful, no wonder it’s sterilized. When it can’t be digested…


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