Something in the world forces us to think…
It may be grasped in a range of
affective tones: wonder, love,
— Gilles Deleuze
Rhetorics of Affect: Notes on the Political Theory of the Passions
I start from three interlocking premises. First, affective states and passions are an inherent dimension of politics and the political realm. Second, among the “ineluctable means” of politics, in addition to violence and deception as identified by Max Weber, is the power of rhetoric to arouse and dampen emotions, rhetoric in the double sense of the art of persuasion and the art of figuration. And, third, passions and affects do not exist independent of “discourse,” specifically rhetoric, in the sense that rhetoric does not simply convey or express passions and affects but in some sense forms them.
The place of rhetoric in political theory is, therefore, inextricably bound up with the philosophy of the passions….
She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die; And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh, Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
These lines open the third and final stanza of “Ode on Melancholy” and seem to express the thematic node of the poem: melancholy arises because whatever is beautiful dies, because pleasure arcs from ache of anticipation to poison of fulfillment, and because joy departs as soon as it is realized….
Biden’s most irresponsible political act was dissolving, and absolving, our country’s responsibility for the millions of girls and women abandoned to their fate under the Taliban. His most irresponsible private act has been dissolving, and absolving, his family’s responsibility for the daughter his son fathered.
Surprisingly or not, neither the first act nor, so far, the second raised the ire of American feminists.
Besides gender there is another, perhaps deeper resemblance between the decision affecting the anonymous millions of Afghan women and the one affecting Navy Jones Roberts….
From the Archive.
1999 & 2007
In 1989, in the wake of the fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie, the editors of Public Culture, Arjun Appadurai and Carol Breckenridge, wrote an editorial critical of the way many Western intellectuals and the Western media defended Rushdie and castigated the Islamic leaders and crowds who were denouncing The Satanic Verses and threatening its author. They questioned the excesses and ethnocentrism in the outcries, including Rushdie’s, against Islamic politics and saw in Western liberals’ attitudes an ethnocentric attachment to Enlightenment interpretations of free speech. . . .