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Posts Tagged ‘begær’

Love for the biopolitical economy: Wasps & Orchids

In copy-remix, English on May 7, 2010 at 7:14 am


This blog will talk about love. Yes, love! But first…


Love is not just a matter for the sentimental fool. Love produces subjectivities, affective networks, and schemes of cooperation. In this sense, love is an economic and political power. Love is not just a matter for the romantic either. Love is not merely, as it is often characterized, spontaneous or passive. It does not simply happen to us, as if it were an event that mystically arrives from nowhere. Instead it is an action, a biopolitical event, which, in order to be created in its benign form, also requires training. A boot camp of love for everyday life.

Love can fascinate us, but it should also interest us, since love provides a path for investigating the power and productivity of the common.

Corrupt forms of love

We often think of love as a means to escape the solitude and isolation of individualism. But in our contemporary ideology we end up getting isolated again in the private life of the couple or the family. To arrive at a political concept of love that recognizes it as centered on the production of common life, we have to break free from the contemporary corruptions of the term. After that, we’ll explore their antidotes.

  1. Identitarian love, or “love of the same”. Identitarian love can be based, for example, on a narrow interpretation of the mandate to love thy neighbor, understanding it as a call to love those most proximate, those most like you. Family love, race love, nation love or patriotism, all exemplify the pressure to love most those most like you and hence less those who are different. From this perspective we might way that populisms, nationalisms, fascisms, and various religious fundamentalisms are based not so much on hatred as on love – but a horribly corrupted form of identitarian love. Love of the stranger, love of the farthest, and love of alterity can function as an antidote against the poison of identitarian love, which hinders and distorts love’s productivity by forcing it constantly to repeat the same.
  2. Unifying love, or “love of becoming the same”. The contemporary dominant notion of romantic love in our culture, which Hollywood sells every day, its stock in trade, requires that the couple merge in unity. Individuals thus find each other with the promise of becoming the same. The mandatory sequence of this corrupted romantic love – couple–marriage–family – imagines people finding their match, like lost puzzle pieces, that now together make (or restore) a whole. Of course, no single other makes anyone whole. Contrary to this, some say that “you are already whole”. While this notion rings more true, it is also too simple. Rather, wholeness emerges from the inside as an internalized secure base, only through love’s inclusion of others. Discovering the uniqueness and singularity of our encounters and relations, can function as an antidote against the poison of unifying love, which handicaps and encloses love’s expansion by forcing it to merge into the one.

To summarize, these corrupt forms of love aim at the same goal: making the many into one, making the different into the same. Sameness and unity involve no creation but mere repetition without difference. Similarly, various forms of patriotism, nationalism or loyalty to the party, share this notion of setting (or pushing) aside differences and alterity in order to form a united people, a united identity.

Wasps & orchids

To discover a way out of the corruptions of live, let’s turn to the classic metaphor of insects and flowers. Certain orchids give off the odour of the sex pheromone of female wasps, and their flowers are shaped like the female wasp sex organs. Pollination is thus achieved by pseudocopulation as male wasps move from one orchid to the next, sinking their genital members into each flower and rubbing off pollen on their bodies in the process.

So wasps fuck flowers! Wasps do their work just like that, for nothing, but for the fun of it. Our delight at this example is due in part to the fact that it undercuts the industriousness and “productivism” usually attributed to nature. These wasps aren’t your dutiful worker bees; on the surface they aren’t driven to produce anything, at least not in the traditional sense. Seemingly, they just want to have fun.

A second point of interest is undoubtedly the way this pollination story reinforces the diatribe against the corruptions of love in the monogamous couple and the family, as told above. Wasps and orchids do not suggest any morality tale of marriage and stable union, as bees and flowers do, but rather evoke scenarios of cruising and serial sex common to some gay male practices and communities of non-monogamy.

This is not to say that cruising and anonymous sex serve as a model of love to emulate, but rather that they provide an antidote to the corruptions of love in the couple and the family, opening love up to the encounter of singularities.

Training in love of becoming-other

We should be careful to not just see the orchid as imitating the wasp or trying to deceive it, as botanists often do. Rather, the orchid is a becoming-wasp (becoming the wasp’s sexual organ) and the wasp is a becoming-orchid (becoming part of the orchid’s system of reproduction). What is central is the encounter and interaction between these two becomings, which together form a new assemblage, a wasp-orchid machine. The fable is devoid of intentions and interests: the wasps and orchids are not paragons of virtue in their mutual aid, nor are they models of egoistic self-love. We should avoid reducing the activities through questions like “What does it really mean?” or “What do they really want?”. Instead, this machinic language allows one to ask questions like “How does it work?”, “What happens in the process?” or “What comes to matter?”

The fable thus tells the story of wasp-orchid love, a love based on the encounter of alterity but also on a process of becoming different. The conspicuous variety of orchids, with their fascinating shapes and colours, tells us something of the power of wasp-orchid-love. A truly polymorphous love! Furthermore, beyond the serial and anonymous quality of cruising love, these becomings seem to continue their encounters, and thereby instituting lasting relations of becoming-other. By turning wasps and orchids into machines of becomings, we discover the parallel and open relationships of polyamorus love, where both serial encounters and relations of continuity can take place. Love does not just happen spontaneously, so a process of training in love becomes necessary in maintaining these forms of polyamorus love. Training in love does not reduce the multiplicity of singularities, making everyone the same or merging the many into one. In avoiding the corrupt forms of love and enhancing the benign ones, training in love creates contexts for the singularities to manage their encounters and relations: to avoid the negative encounters and relations, which diminish their strength, and prolong and repeat the joyful ones, which increase it.

The biopolitical production of love

Wasps who loves orchids point toward the conditions of the biopolitical economy. But how could these wasps be a model for economic production, you might ask, when they don’t produce anything? The bees and the flowers produce honey and fruit, but the wasps and orchids are just hedonists and aesthetes, merely creating pleasure and beauty! It is true that the interaction of wasps and orchids does not result primarily in goods, but one should not discount their biopolitical production, ie. the making of forms of life. In the encounter of singularities of their love, a new assemblage is created, marked by the continual metamorphosis of each singularity in the common. Wasp-orchid love, in other words, is a model of the production of subjectivity that animates the biopolitical economy. Let’s have done with worker bees, then, and focus on the singularities and becomings of wasp-orchid love!

Stereo Total – L’amour á trois

c’est sexy, extatique
crazy, excentrique
animal, romantique
c’est communiste


I copy-remixed this text from a number of passages in Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri‘s Common Wealth (pdf on a.aaarg.org), in particular p. 186-188 from the chapter “De Singularitate 1: Of Love Possessed”. Consequently, the “we” speaking in the text is a combination of these writers, their own copied writers, me, and anyone feeling the urge to inhabit this open text.


Hedonism bortom Spotifysamhället

In Svensk, video on March 15, 2010 at 8:29 pm

I sin senaste följetong av Spotifysamhället gör Fredrik Edin en klockren analys av konsumentidentiteten. Vad som framgår av analysen är, att detta är en otroligt motsägelsefull, kanske även ganska patetisk identitet. Paradoxen utgörs av “det allt vanligare fenomenet att folk betalar för att kunna betrakta sig som kunder”. Detta verkar paradoxalt, eftersom vi förväntar oss att man betalar för att kunna njuta något annat – det man betalar för. Men som Edin fräckt påstår, är en del av njutningen också själva det att betala. Konsumentens njutning av hens egen tillblivelse som konsument. Edin verkar implicit säga, att det ibland faktisk bara är denna tillblivelse, dvs. betalningen, som konsumenten njuter. Betalningen är inte längre ett medel till att uppnå ett mål, det är själva mål och medel. Även om det inte är fullkomligt så, säger det något om den bisarra identitet som konsumenten njuter.

Edins exempel går på den reduktion av rörelse som “motion” och “gymmet” innebär, dvs. att i stället för att röra sig mera i vardagen, funktionsuppdelar man livet, således att man bara rör sig på vissa platser och tidpunkter och med standardiserade övningar (som bara tränar en del av kroppen). Jag kom att tänka på två alternativ till detta, som jag själv tycker är mycket roliga: den sortens vardagens styrketräning som har kallats Beast Skillz och den sortens gatugymnastik som har populariserats under termen Parkour. Båda är helt gratis! Båda är dessutom en del av den rörelse inom träningsvärlden som har börjat vända blicken på så kallad funktionell träning, dvs. träning för hela kroppen, för att kunna utföra aktiviteter i vardagen. Och det finns så klart oändliga möjligheter för att röra sig, också mera ostrukturerad än detta. Jag ser i alla fall ingen orsak till att man inte bara slänger medlemskortet till SATS, och börjar leva sitt liv utan för gympafabriken.

Streetmovement-gänget, som intervjuas här, träffas fortfarande på Islands Brygge vid Köpenhamns hamn varje söndag. Jag brukade hänga med där, och det var fett nice. Och gratis så klart. Även om vissa av rörelserna är avancerade, hoppas jag videon visar hur enkelt det dock kan vara. Det är egentligen bara att hitta goda vänner och sen starta träning tillsammans!

Vi återvänder till problemet med konsumentidentiteten. Jag kommer att tänka på Kate Soper och hennes försök på att formulera en “alternativ hedonism” bortom konsumerism. Det vi redan har sagt om fysisk träning och rörelse av kroppen, kan alltså sägas i ett bredare perspektiv, den vardagens njutning av tillfredsställande aktiviteter (de följande citat urspringer från en artikel i tidsskriften Kvinder, Køn og Forskning)

Vi kan inte bara prata om den hedonistiska aktivitet dock, dvs. så länge denna aktivitet ingår i ett betalningsregim, och vi måste därför se på arbetet också. Kate Sopers kritik riktar sig till dels på arbetet, eller som hon säger,

“our general subordination to a time economy and work ethic which sees free time as a threat to prosperity rather than a form in which it can be realised”.

Mycket likt spotifieringsbegreppet, pekar Soper på följande paradox: att vi alltmer arbetar för att betala för att göra saker som annars är gratis, och sen behöver att kompensera för de saker som vi uppoffrar genom arbetet, genom att betala för att göra andra saker som annars också är gratis.

“The economy has become increasingly dependent for it’s ‘health’ on our collective preparedness to spend the money we earn working too hard and too long on the commodities which help to compensate for the forms of need satisfaction we have increasingly sacrificed through over-work and over-production. This is a dynamic that tends to the elimination of straightforward and inexpensive forms of gratification, only then to profit further through the provision of more expensive compensatory modes of consumption for those who can afford them.”

Spotifiering är precis denna eliminering av annars tillgängliga och gratis former av tillfredsställande aktiviteter, för att sen inhägna det allmänna i kompensatoriska surrogatlösningar. Som nästan alltid suger. Soper nämner en rad exempel, t.ex. turism,

“The leisure and tourist industry has increasingly tailored its offerings to the overworked, with holiday breaks that promise to make good the loos in ‘quality’ time”

mänsklig kontakt:

“Then there is the extra you often now have to pay for dealing with a person rather than a machine.”

kärlek och relationer:

“… the speed dating and Wife Selecting agencies that promise to make up for your loss of the arts of loving and relating.”

och slutligen Edins eget exempel, rörelsens reduktion till motion (gymmet), och den funktionsuppdelade staden:

“The multiplication of gyms to which people drive in order to do treadmill running in cities where, because there are so many cars on the street, they no longer find it pleasant or safe to walk or run”.

Undrar om Jung tänkte på något liknande när han sade “Religion is a defense against religious experience”? Hur som helst, vilken bisarr värld vi fortfarande lever i. Låt oss skynda oss ur den. Har man lust att gå vidare, kan man lyssna på Kate Soper när hon pratar om “Alternative Hedonism” på radioprogrammet Philosophy Bites. Torr brittisk analys, riktigt bra.